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In his new book, Your body in Balance, Dr. Neal Barnard shares how we can manage our hormones using food and movement to get and stay healthy.
Dr. Barnard, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Barnard (01:13):
Thank you. Great to be with you today.
You know, it's interesting. You have so many books out and, I guess it's a little bit embarrassing. I've been in this industry, doing this podcast for over four years and I don't know how I've missed you all these years. It's kind of interesting, but this book that we're going to talk about today, Your Body in Balance: The New Science of Food Hormones and Health is actually pretty good. I really enjoyed the read.
Dr. Barnard (01:37):
Pretty good? It's groundbreaking.
Well it is, it is. There's a lot in there. It's a very deep book. And particularly what I like about the layout and I know you kind of said something at the beginning of the book of you can read it this way, but you probably still want to read it cover to cover. So I was a cover to cover guy. I will say, you know, there were sections of it that I thought, okay, this, this is cool and I understand this and I know that and okay, that makes sense. And then, Oh, I didn't know this. So it is a good book because it brought out a lot of things that I didn't know. And it related a lot of, I guess, basic illnesses we go through. Many of them kind of come from the same problem and it's the quality of our food.
Dr. Barnard (02:23):
That's right. And to be really specific, many people have all kinds of symptoms that they had no idea it related to their hormones being out of control and hormones are messengers. So the ovaries make estrogens and the estrogens go to the uterus and they get it ready for pregnancy or the testes make testosterone. And so that goes to your, to a man's brain and makes him want to run for president. Kidding. But, uh, the hormones affect our bodies in many, many ways. And if you are unaware, you may be unaware of it, but a young girl has menstrual cramps or endometriosis or a couple has infertility and he never realized that their hormones were out of balance. And more importantly, they didn't realize that their hormones were knocked out of balance by what they were eating for breakfast. And so the point of your body in balance is to say, here's how the hormones are working.
Dr. Barnard (03:12):
Here's the reason why you're depressed or why your blood sugar is high. Here are the hormones that relate. Here's how to pick foods to get you back into balance. And what you said is right that there are certain themes that come through over and over and over again. Cheese is terrible from the standpoint of your hormone balance. Uh, animal products in general are not good and plant products are better. And so we go through it, tell people to, to really get back into balance and to be able to reclaim your health as a just an amazing thing.
Yeah, and I'm a huge proponent of, of people going out and saying, okay, let's, let's look at the science. Let's look at what's there and then let's listen to our bodies. If we're not healthy, what we've been doing isn't working and there's not really going to be a pill that the doctor can give us that's going to compensate for eating the wrong way for years and years and years.
Dr. Barnard (04:05):
Unfortunately, that's what medications are trying to do, but they don't do a particularly good job. Um, with regard to diabetes, which is now the hormone that's not working is insulin. Insulin is a hormone. It's made in the pancreas that goes to your cells and it acts like a key to try to let sugar get into the cell because sugar or glucose is the name of it. It's job is to give energy to your, to your muscles and, and to the rest of you. And insulin is a key that loves the sugar in the cell. But if it's, if it's not working, you end up with high blood sugar and diabetes. So our research team developed a better diet for diabetes that turned out to be 300% better than the best current diet. We were funded by the U S government to do it, and it works really very well, but it's a completely different view of diabetes.
Dr. Barnard (04:58):
We now understand that the reason that insulin isn't working is because fat has built up inside the cell. And as long as there's a lot of particles of just grease, fat, lipid inside your muscle cells, the insulin can't work well and you end up with diabetes. But the beauty of this is if you get that fat out of your diet, it tends to come out of your cells and diabetes improves. And in some cases diabetes just goes away, which is something that previously people thought was not possible. So our goal here, choose the foods, get the hormones in balance, and let your health recover.
Yeah. And it's following, you're following a similar vein that I've, I've had with many doctors that I've had on the show and we talk about, okay, you've got to eliminate some foods because they're just not doing your body well. And so when I look at the vegan diet, and from my perspective, again, I'm not vegan, but I look at it and say, you do need to, a lot of your diet has to be somewhat plant-based. You shouldn't go completely carnivore. And vegan is an approach. It's, to me, it's an elimination diet and it's an approach to where you can actually learn what your body performs very well with. And so I just, you know, as we go through, when we talk about elimination diets, in either case, I think it's very important for you to understand the nutritional basis behind what you're doing. And so, uh, I'm not going to be the person that throws a stone and says you can't get your protein if you're a vegan. Cause that's a false statement. You can't get proper protein. But there are some things you have to be aware of that you're not going to get initially out of a vegan diet. And you have to work around that.
Dr. Barnard (06:40):
That's right. You won't get ecoli. You won't get salmonella. You're not gonna get any cholesterol. I'm teasing a little bit, but the animal products are really unhealthy for us in so many ways. They provide a lot of things we don't want. I mentioned infectious bacteria and parasites and all that kind of stuff, but they have cholesterol, they have a lot of saturated fat. Dairy products have estrogens in them that came from a cow. You have absolutely no need for any of that stuff. And a plant based diet is dramatically healthier than animal based diet. But what you said is true. You want to plan it. Do you want to make sure that it's the best it can be?
And so for someone that's going to go pure vegan, uh, they're going to have to recognize that B12 is an element of that diet that isn't there? They're going to have to supplement for that.
Dr. Barnard (07:27):
Easy to do.
Dr. Barnard (07:28):
And the same thing with a carnivore, when they go out and decide they want to do carnivore as an elimination style, I would just get completely opposite spectrum of what you're talking about. But they're, they're going to need fiber. They're not necessarily getting the fiber they need properly. So on either side of these, there's just a little bit of thought that I think has to go to any kind of elimination diet.
Dr. Barnard (07:48):
Well, there's, there's much more to it. If a person's on a carnivore diet, they need to consider the fact that they're at high risk for colorectal cancer. They're at high risk for cardiovascular disease. They're probably at higher risk for Alzheimer's but the jury is still a little bit out there. We are not designed physiologically to be eating, uh, animal products and we, and we don't do well when we, when we make them the center of our plate.
Okay. I do want to ask that question because that was something that's in my mind trying to figure this out because you know, it's funny, there's this meme going around the internet right now that says, you know, we used to think that people were idiots because of a lack of access to knowledge. And now with the internet we have access to all knowledge and it really hasn't solved the problem. That's kind of the joke of it. You can have complete access to information and still not know the answers to things. There's so much information out there, so much conflicting information that's often difficult to parse it out. And so we typically like to put paradigms together, you know, like calories in, calories out. It's just an easy little way of thinking about food and energy expenditure. But another one that's out there that's pretty common, and I actually kind of believe a little bit of it's true, is the ancestral eating.
And granted that, I know my ancestors did eat plant matter as a part of their regular diet. But if you live in Northern Europe, you can't, you can't survive as a vegan year-round because the is just not going to be there.
Dr. Barnard (09:17):
You mean today or you mean?
Well, I mean, yeah, I don't mean today. Today, I've got you know, Safeway or what are they? I forget what they call their grocery stores over there. Sansbury's or whatever. So yeah, there's grocery stores everywhere and so you just get your groceries and they're shipped in from Mexico or Chile or Spain or wherever. But in the general sense of our evolution of us coming through, um, there were periods of time when we would not have access to plant matter at all.
Dr. Barnard (09:46):
Okay. So your, your, uh, your, uh, ancestors were in Europe. What was specifically where,
uh, it would have been in, uh, Ireland, up into Norway, all the way over to, uh, what would be I guess Western Russia area? All of them. Yeah. Almost nothing. Almost nothing South of that. If, if 23 and Me, uh, it was actually right about that. Uh, there's almost nothing else. Yeah.
Dr. Barnard (10:12):
Okay. Um, go back in time. Where did they come from? Where did, where did they migrate from to get there?
Uh, most of them migrated up from closer to the equator.
Dr. Barnard (10:21):
Uh, which Continent?
uh, Africa. From what I understand.
Dr. Barnard (10:25):
Okay. Uh, what can you eat in anF in Ecuadorian Africa?
Oh, tons. There's the equitorial region would have been flush with fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Barnard (10:34):
So a natural diet for you would be lots of fruits and vegetables and plant based foods.
I don't know. I mean potentially, yes.
Dr. Barnard (10:44):
And your ancestors had the same bad judgment that my ancestors had, which is to leave that wonderful, uh, equatorial environment and to go to a Northern climate. Mine ended up in North Dakota. Um, and so, uh, our healthy a healthy diet for us, if we look at it, we are in the biological group of great apes, which is chimpanzees and gorillas and orangutans and Bonobos. And they are mostly or exclusively a herbivorous and, and that's the diet they were still good, good with. And, and it's amazing what happens when you kind of take a lesson from that and use it. Um, the thing that actually caused me to write this book, Your Body and Balance was that a phone call from a young woman who was eating all the wrong things. She had terrible mess, Joel cramps. And who would think that menstrual cramps would have anything to do with, with what you ate?
Dr. Barnard (11:34):
Um, she called me up and she just said, I can't get out of bed. This happens to be every month for about one day. I've got a business trip tomorrow. What do I do? I said, let me give you some painkillers to get you through today and tomorrow. But then I suggested to her a diet change that I don't think any doctor would ever have suggested for cramps. I said, how about this? No animal products for you at all the next month and keep oils really, really low. And it absolutely cured her, her cramps. She thought, what is, you know, how could this be? So I did a randomized clinical trial of that same prescription in a large group of women who had had cramps. And it, it works. It's very effective. What she didn't know was that your body has a system for eliminating excess estrogens.
Dr. Barnard (12:20):
And it depends on fiber. And if you have lots of fiber in your diet, which comes only from plants, you eliminate the excess estrogens. If you don't eliminate them, they cause the uterus to go through more vial changes every month. And you feel terrible if you eat a lot of fatty foods, meat, dairy products and so forth, you get too much estrogen in your body as well, not from those foods, but your body's response to the fat by making estrogen apparently. And if you eat cheese, cheese has estrogen in it that came from the cow. Nobody explained this to her. Her own doctor never told her this. But my point is that we in nature we would have had a very high fiber, very low fat diet, uh, with no ice cream in it. So we wouldn't be getting estrogens from a cow and it returned to a more healthful diet is, um, is amazing what it will do in balancing the body.
Yeah. And I do agree with you there. Um, wholeheartedly. I think the, uh, the emphasis we have on our, um, food in the Western diet of milk and cheese is really kind of off the reservation there. We're, um, we're a milk and cheese eating nation for one reason or another.
Dr. Barnard (13:30):
Yeah. And it's, and it's bad in every way. I have an now by point of disclaimer. Um, I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. Uh, I come from my extended family raised cattle. They're all good, decent people, but I have to say to raise cattle for dairy or for me, this is obviously the cattle don't enjoy it. It ends up being a fatal experience for them. Um, and the environment doesn't enjoy it because they're belching methane all day long and your coronary arteries aren't too cool about it either. Um, so it's, it's a good idea to break away from that even though that's, that's the way most all of us were raised initially, unfortunately.
Now, do you think that there's significant difference, um, because one of the things you said in the book was, you know, obviously for, for giving them the hormones and they're getting pregnant every cycle that they're eligible to be pregnant because they want to maximize the, you know, the yield, uh, off of their cows. And so that's, that's part of the problem. Do you think there are more sustainable ways that you know you could raise cattle that would not cause as much problem or is it just inherent in any access to any food that's a milk or cheese regardless of whether it's a properly raised animal or not?
Dr. Barnard (14:42):
Well, if you want to get cheese just to state the obvious, cows aren't going to give you any cheese or milk or anything. Well, they don't give it. People take it. The way this has done is you take your left hand and put a big glove on it, up to your shoulder and insert it into the cows rectum. This is what happens on every glass of milk came from this source through the rectal wall. You can feel the uterus and you hold it steady in your left hand grip. You then take your right hand and load up a very long syringes looks like a knitting needle and you jam it through the cervix and you impregnate the animal. The reason that this is done is that if the animal has not been pregnant, she's not gonna make milk.
Dr. Barnard (15:18):
Her pregnancy is about nine months. Uh, at the end of that time, she will give birth. The male calf is slaughtered, uh, for veal. The female calf is taken away because you don't want her to drink the milk because if you did, you would, you wouldn't have anything for you. So you, you're, you're now just taking that milk that is supposed to be for her baby. And so now you're asking me, well, how do I do this humanely? How do you artificially inseminate a cow humanely? How do you take away their calves humanely? How do you kill her humanely when she's not productive anymore? These are fantasies that we have. And for me as a doctor, I'm not an ethicist, I'm a doctor. What I see is all of the things that come as a result of that, which is the estrogens in the milk are affecting your body. The lactose sugar in the milk breaks down to produce galactose, which is toxic to the ovaries. There's no good side to it apart from the fact that culturally we've come to accept it as normal.
Okay. All right. We don't want to know how the sausage is made. I guess is the answer. Yeah.
Dr. Barnard (16:19):
Well you know and I wouldn't say this if I hadn't been on the other side for half my life. I mean I have personally driven cattle to slaughter. As a child, I had a 20 gauge shotgun and I went out with my dad and we killed all the, anything that moved out of Canada into North Dakota. So I understand all that, but there comes a time when you understand what it does to your body, what you're doing to the planet, what you're doing to animals. We used to have the idea that animals were resources. I think that's a mistake. I think we need to think of them as people are not people, but they're beings who are sharing this planet with us. And to the extent that we can leave them alone, I think that's a good thing.
Okay. Um, now you had a very interesting perspective on fish oil and I remember that that part of the book, I was just, it was, I was a fascinating read to kind of go through it. Do you mind taking some time to talk about why fish oil and fish might not be a good idea?
Dr. Barnard (17:11):
Well, I have to say science is still marching forward on this, but you might be referring to the connections with prostate cancer. This was totally unexpected. You know, people have tried to make money by selling fish oil supplements. They don't work particularly well for or at all for protecting the heart. And that was kind of what had been hoped for. But in these studies, it turned out that men consuming the fish oil capsules would have a higher risk of prostate cancer. And at first that was thought to just be a statistical fluke.
Dr. Barnard (17:44):
But it shows up over and over and over again, including researchers who are trying to disprove. So we still don't know the mechanism for it, but we just see this. So the question is, should, should people avoid it? And I think the answer is yes. Now with that said, Let's say a person wants to boost their omega-3 content and um, they, what you can do if you wish is you can, you can get a blood test. Um, there are companies, there's one called Omega quant. As in quantifying your Omega three Omega quant will send you a card. It costs maybe $50, $60 and you put a drop of blood on it, you send it back, they'll tell you if you're low in Omega three or not. And if you're not, you can maybe stop worrying about it. Perhaps if you are, you can decide if you want to take the risk of supplementing with Omega three. If you do, there are, luckily there are vegan Omega threes available. They're there. They're exactly DHA and EPA just like a fish, although they don't smell like a fish, they don't have mercury in them or whatever. And they're okay, but the safety of them is still uncertain, uh, because of the prostate cancer risk.
Okay. Now I hear about this more and more as you know, obviously now I'm in my fifties and so, you know, I've got friends in my fifties and sixties and so the conversation around a bioidentical hormone replacement seems to be kind of a regular recurring conversation amongst my friends and kind of out in the industry. I think it's becoming much, much more mainstream than it ever was. And a lot more people are looking to it to either help them deal with menopause or as, as men just kind of feel a little bit more viral and, and you know, in many cases to try to address other problems like ED, you don't think that's such a good idea though.
Dr. Barnard (19:31):
Yeah, I have to say I'm concerned about, and the reasons and actually it's, it's not that there's anything unusual about the bioidentical hormones. They, uh, or, or I should say that if they're formulated correctly, they might be an exact match for yours. What I'm concerned about is that yours are dangerous. Um, where we see this very clearly as in women, a woman has estrodiol, which is a hormone in her bloodstream that diminishes at menopause and she may have hot flashes or whatever. And she goes to the doctor who says, let me, let me give you a prescription for Premarin. And she goes online and discovers that Premarin comes from a horse and it's a mixture of, of estrogen, some of which aren't, aren't human estrogens at all. And, and she learns that Premarin, the name comes from pregnant mare's urine and that all seems gross.
Dr. Barnard (20:20):
So she goes back to the doctor and says, what do you got? And there are hormones that are actually not horse derived, not animal derived at all. And they are a match for your own hormones. But then you discover that your own hormones, if they're in too high of a quantity, will increase your risk of breast cancer. Uh, so for post-menopausal breast cancer is directly related to the amount of estrogen in a womans blood. And so she's supplementing her natural hormones with extra hormones, her risk of various cancers likely to be higher. So that's where we are. And, um, my concern is, is that even if they are identical to yours they're still problematic.
Okay. And I think one of the other concepts that was in the book that I thought was really important because it's, I think it's missed more times than it should, is if, if a man suffering with ED, that's a big red flag that something bigger is going on in his body.
Dr. Barnard (21:13):
Oh my goodness. Um, this is, I'm glad you asked that. And just about every primary care clinic and in America and everywhere else, um, guys go into the doctor's office and they say, you know, I'm having trouble and the doctor writes amount of prescription for Viagra and I would, he goes, if this is a smart doctor, he will drop his pen, race out the door and grab the patient before he is gone down the elevator and say, I forgot to tell you something and escort the patient back in the office and give him a short speech. Which is the reason that you have erectile dysfunction is that you've got narrowed arteries. Uh, the reason for erectile dysfunction in the vast majority of older men is atherosclerosis. The arteries are narrowed by a lifetime of eating animal products.
Dr. Barnard (22:04):
Fatty foods may be ,smoking, might contribute, diabetes can contribute, and the erectile dysfunction occurs because a man's private parts are a hydraulic system that needs good blood supply to work. And if he doesn't get good blood flow, uh, he's nothing's going to happen. So, um, as his arteries are narrowing from his meaty cheesy, greasy diet, the blood supply to his private parts is shut off. But what the doctor was concerned about is that he has the same atherosclerosis in his heart and the same probably in the arteries to his brain. And he has to explain to him that within the next five years, you are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke men with erectile dysfunction, it is now viewed pretty universally by cardiologists. Erectile dysfunction is the Canary in the coal mine. It's a sign that you've got artery narrowings that ultimately are likely to kill you. So take your viagra if you want to, but start a healthy completely vegan diet and your arteries will open up again and uh, in to a degree in the vast majority of people. And that may mean that your artery or your a heart attack never happens and your stroke never happens. And your erectile dysfunction can go away as well too, which we see all the time.
Yeah, and I think that's really important is, uh, a lot of general practitioners might, might just miss that signal. Uh, pull out the scripts, let you leave for the blue pill and, and think we're all good. But this is, this is a big warning flag for you to keep on the, on the mass to know, okay, there's something bigger going on here and then I've got to make some changes to make sure I'm still around to enjoy those little blue pills. If, if I continue to need them.
Dr. Barnard (23:46):
Well and you may not continue to need them. For a doctor to write a Viagra prescription for a man with an erectile dysfunction, without talking with him about his atherosclerosis and without referring him to a dietician to give him a healthy vegan diet. That's the equivalent of seeing a smoker in your clinic and prescribing some laws and just to help him with his cough. You have to say at some point the smoking is going to kill you. And unfortunately, the doctors still haven't really quite gotten that message. And uh, many of them have cardiologists really understand this, but primary care docs are in some cases they're there, they're not there yet and they really need to be.
Now, one other thing obviously is a personal trainer. This is near and dear to my heart. That continued to come up was the need for exercise that it helps us in so many different ways. Can you, could you give us a little bit of insight into exercise? Why it's helping with so many of these issues, and exactly what's going on in our body that is helping us heal.
Dr. Barnard (24:44):
Yeah. Exercise is, is um, it's a funny thing. Um, and even I think it's been a bit misunderstood. Um, early on in your body and balance. I talk about fertility and there have been say, distance runners, women who are no longer opulate, um, because they're running so much and so people started to think, Oh, don't run so much if you want to be fertile, take it easy, dah, dah, dah. But then other research has shown that the more vigorously women exercise, the higher their fertility. And the way we put it together is that there's nothing wrong with the exercise. Having your muscles move is a good thing where people run into trouble is if they're not keeping up with themselves with their diet and they're losing so much body fat that they are now out of hormone balance in the other direction. That's when the infertility comes in. Um, so exercise is fine. In fact, the more vigorous exercise, a woman who has the higher fertility, as long as she doesn't lose body fat and exercise of course plays a role in, in many, many other things. It's good for brain health. It appears to reverse brain shrinkage. Um, it helps with weight loss a little bit, not, not nearly as much as the diet changes will, but it's part of a healthy diet. I'm part of a healthy lifestyle. I mean.
Yeah. And I think that's cool. The cool thing about it, you know, you referenced Ornish's study, uh, where he had not just eating a vegan diet, but other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and exercising and the Australian study that you reference also talked about the fact that they, they got them into exercising and that helped with the weight loss. Uh, cause it's just kinda like, just little kick in the butt, right past of what you're doing with your food, uh, that can help you reach that weight loss goal a bit faster. And with the weight loss, a lot of these conditions that you talk about in the book, you know, like diabetes, like infertility and some of those other things, those, those tend to ferret themselves out. If we're forgiving our body what it needs.
Dr. Barnard (26:44):
They really can. No, I do want to say a word for people who are unable to exercise, let's say their joints aren't really shot or they have say retinal problems that are extremely fragile at the moment or they've got massive obesity and they're really having trouble. You could still benefit enormously from the diet changes alone even without a lot of exercise. And the reason we know that is in our research studies, if we're trying to test diets, we ask people not to modify their exercise regimens cause that would be a confounder. Um, so we know that the diet alone works well, but, but adding exercise to it is a really good thing. Plus I have to say, um, if you're out, uh, running a 5K, you can't eat a bowl of ice cream while you're doing it. So it's got lots of other benefits.
Yeah. But they'll figure out a way to drink it. Little goo packets or something. I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Dr. Barnard (27:45):
Well, I'm going to suggest, first of all, you want to follow a healthy diet, which I'm going to say is a low fat, completely plant based diet. It is a good thing to get an a good activity and sleep cycle. So that means do get, give your muscles, have a reason to live, exercise them, but don't forget to stop and sleep at night. So to give yourself the ability to rest so your bed, your best the next day. But the third thing I think is the most important and that's to share what you know with other people because they are at risk for all kinds of problems because they don't have the knowledge that you have. And if you understand how foods and exercise can protect your health, share that information with other people, share it with your loved ones in turn because you are now their role model. They'll keep you on the straight and narrow the next time you have some kind of temptation. So that'll help everybody.
Yeah. And this book has a lot of that information. It's well-researched, it's well supported. Um, so Dr. Bernard thank you so much. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, your Body in Balance, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Barnard (28:50):
Oh well thank you for asking. Our website is PCRM.org that stands for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (pcrm.org) and you'll see me, Neal Barnard to all of our social media and our organization that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is there too.
Okay, well you can go to 40plusfitness podcast.com/423 and I'll be sure to have that link there. So Dr. Bernard, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Barnard (29:17):
Nice talking to you today. Thank you.
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Can a vegan go keto? In her book, Vegan Keto, Liz MacDowell explains exactly how to do it and she provides some wonderful recipes to help you on your journey. On this episode, we discuss her book.
Allan (1:25): Liz, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Liz MacDowell (1:30): Hi Allan. Thank you. It’s so nice to be here.
Allan (1:34): When I saw your book I was like, “I’ve got to get her on my show”, because it’s Vegan Keto, and I’ve had this conversation with various people over the years. I’m one of those folks right now that’s kind of the backlash against bacon. I’m like, “Please, let’s stop talking about bacon. This is not the bacon diet.” Unfortunately, most people that are vegetarian and vegan, that’s all they hear.
Liz MacDowell (2:02): Exactly.
Allan (2:04): I know they’re saying I can eat bacon, but they’re hearing you eat bacon. It’s a really hard message to explain to folks that we need to get away from the bacon.
Liz MacDowell (2:17): It’s so true. It’s almost like keto has a bit of a PR problem. It was so enticing at first to everyone to hear, “You can eat bacon”, because bacon is that food that’s always kind of tossed back and forth by doctors as either going to kill you now or going to kill you in two years. So people were excited to hear they could have a healthy diet with bacon, but I think it became the overarching message that it’s burgers and bacon and cheese and eggs.
Allan (2:43): We could’ve said the same thing about mayonnaise. You can have all the mayonnaise you want. It’s the perfect fat, if you get the right kind of fat in your mayonnaise. So if it’s an avocado-based mayonnaise, you can just eat as much mayonnaise as you want. That’s not the message of the keto diet, but unfortunately I think that’s where a lot of folks have kind of taken it.
Liz MacDowell (3:05): Exactly. It definitely seems incompatible at first when you think vegan diet and then you think ketogenic diet.
Allan (3:12): Right, but the other side of it is, I’ll be the first to admit that when you’re doing ketosis and the ketogenic diet, you are being restrictive in your food choices. When you’re being vegan, you’re being restrictive in your food choices. Putting the two together is now a compound of, you have to be very, very selective about every bit of morsel of food that goes into your body to meet both of those requirements.
Liz MacDowell (3:47): That is very true. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for so long and I just kind of eat what I want now, but you’re practiced at it, you know what you can eat. So I don’t feel as though I’m being restricted at all. But then you think about it. When you go to a restaurant and the waitress asks if you have any dietary concerns, it’s almost embarrassing. I just don’t say anything at this point; I just order a salad.
Allan (4:11): Yeah. It’s like, “Don’t even give me the menu.”
Liz MacDowell (4:18): “I will just be ordering vegetables sides, thank you.”
Allan (4:23): And then just say, “Bring me some olive oil to spice it up a little.” And that was one of the interesting things – I’m starting to see this trend in the conversation. I had Dr. Will Cole on not long ago. His book is Ketotarian. He does show you in the book how you can be vegan and do this, how you can be vegetarian or pescatarian. He kind of blends it out there to say you can find an eating style and you can still make it work for keto. But I’m just now starting to hear this message come out, despite my telling people you can. It’s restrictive and it’ll take a lot of work, especially at the front, as you said. But you’ve been doing this for a while. That kind of surprised me, because I really have never heard of anyone sustainably doing this. And so, I’d like to share your story if you don’t mind.
Liz MacDowell (5:23): Yeah, absolutely. I first stumbled upon keto I think through reddit, where I stumble upon most things, in 2012 over the summer. And it was a period of my life where I hadn’t really been eating that well, I’d put on some weight, I was feeling lethargic, tired and sick all the time, and was really looking for a way to feel better both physically and emotionally, really. Because when you’re not feeling your best physically, you get really depressed. I don’t really know how I stumbled upon keto, but at some point in time someone directed me to this keto page where I started learning about all these blood sugar regulation issues, which hit home for me, because I had been hypoglycemic my entire life. And then you just read more and more. And the more I read about it, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try a high fat diet. I’d tried a super high carb diet, as I think most vegans go through the high carb phase, and that was disastrous for me. I know that works for some people. I’m not at all maligning that way of eating. I think that if it works for you, awesome. I just am not a person who can pound 300 grams of carbs a day and feel okay.
Allan (6:44): That was one of the struggles I had. I kind of stumbled into ketosis myself. I was eating Paleo, effectively, but I was keeping my protein at more of a moderate level, which by nature means I was eating more fat. So, with that I started noticing some physical changes – my breath, my energy level, that I just couldn’t explain. I know I’m eating high quality food, but I’ve eaten high quality food before and I didn’t feel like this, and my breath didn’t smell like this. Then I started doing some research and that’s where I came upon ketosis and I’m like, “Okay, let’s figure this out.” I went and got some stuff, and sure enough I’m in ketosis. And then I started reading up on it and understanding some of the other health benefits of it. There are so many studies out there that show that the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, way of eating are also excellent ways to protect your health. I tried the pescatarian. I knew I couldn’t just play the figuring out the proteins thing. I know there are vegetarian bodybuilders and vegan bodybuilders out there. I know it can be done; it’s just I don’t have the mental energy to do it week in, week out. I know once I got past the dip, it would’ve been fine, but it was that first thing. So I said I’m going to do pescatarian and allow myself to eat fish, and I’m going to eat vegetables and grains and the whole bit.
And what I found was that I was hungry all the time, which caused me to binge on fruit and nuts. And I had to have food with me everywhere I went. I had food in my truck, food at my desk. I was pretty much eating all day, every day, just to keep my energy level. And I would do steel-cut oats in the morning for breakfast, but still by 10:00 I was starving. So I brought myself three servings of walnuts, and I had other food in my office. I just would sit there and binge for the rest of the day. So, there are ways that are going to help us be more healthful and we have to know ourselves, which is what I really appreciated about your story. You’ve now found that balance. You said, “Okay, I know what I can eat. I know how to eat this way.” Now, to do this, I think where most of us think that the vegan aspects of this would make it extremely difficult to hit your micronutrients. I had trouble thinking I could do it with the protein. But we also now have this consideration on, how do I get enough fat into my diet without just drinking olive oil? Can you talk a little bit about the macronutrients? But then I think the bigger story in the end is going to be the micronutrients, because we’re excluding so many foods. There are two layers of complexity here – the macros, which already seem challenging, and the micros, which add a whole another level of depth. Can you go through those a bit?
Liz MacDowell (9:46): Yeah, absolutely. I think part of what makes keto a little bit less intimidating than I would say a Paleo diet for vegans is the moderate protein aspect of it, because you don’t have to worry about hitting 100 grams of protein or 120 grams of protein, which honestly on a keto diet would be totally impossible to do without supplementing. Obviously depending on factors, but for most people I think you would really need to consume a lot of protein powder in order to achieve that 100 grams, 120 grams.
Allan (10:23): And the reality is, most of us don’t need that. When you look at what our output is and our muscle-building capacities, particularly those of us over the age of 40, we just need that maintenance level of protein, which is really a moderate protein. It’s not as high as Atkins or some Paleo paths would have you believe.
Liz MacDowell (10:42): Absolutely. I think that’s another thing where keto is actually less intimidating, because you really don’t need as much protein as people tell you you need. I think we’re all very afraid of not getting enough protein in our culture, which is crazy because we don’t have protein deficiencies all that often. But to hit those macros, I rely on things like hemp seeds, which provide omega three fatty acids, just fats in general; and a good dose of protein for very few carbohydrates. Olives are a great source of fat. I like coconut. I prefer to eat whole food sources as opposed to pouring oil on things. This is so silly, but I feel like I’m getting more food if it’s a whole food source, which volume-wise is true. And also because the olive obviously has a more rounded profile of nutrients than pure olive oil. But I think it’s mostly that I just like eating.
Allan (11:43): There are things that we’re getting from plants that we don’t necessarily get if we’re eating what would effectively be a fortified or processed food. And even if it’s cold pressed, olive oil did go through a process.
Liz MacDowell (11:59): Exactly. And heating it to cook your food, you lose a few more nutrients. Less so with the minerals, but still there is some nutrient loss. Again, I really enjoy eating food. I think you get a whole slew of other benefits. There are so many phytochemicals in plants that we don’t even understand their purpose, but you see studies over and over that show supplementing with the vitamin is okay, although sometimes deleterious to your health, but consuming the whole foods provides added benefits that are greater than the sum of its parts.
Allan (12:36): You hit on a couple of things as you were going through there. There is a higher likelihood with the restrictiveness of trying to be vegan and keto. There are some supplements that you’re going to have to figure out. The big one I know of is the B12. You’re only going to get that from meat and eggs, but if you’re not eating meat and eggs, which you wouldn’t be in vegan, you have to find out your B12. You can measure B12 when you go in and get a blood test, so you can see if you’re deficient, which most vegans probably are. But you supplement. And there are other micronutrients you talked about in the book that I’d really like to spend a little bit of time on.
Liz MacDowell (13:29): Absolutely. So you definitely hit on the big one, B12. What’s sneaky about B12 is your liver can store up to seven years of it. You might not know that you’re slowly becoming deficient year after year because your blood work is showing that you still have enough B12, but eventually it runs out. I read a lot of studies while writing this book, and one of them I was reading showed that a surprising number of meat eaters are also deficient in B12. I think part of that can be attributed to the fact that B12 isn’t really in the food, but rather it’s synthesized by gut bacteria. And so, if we have unhealthy gut flora, it could potentially lead to… I’m kind of spitballing here, but it could potentially lead to a B12 deficiency. I recommend B12 for vegans across the board, keto or not, because as you said, if you’re not eating these animal foods, and even if you are eating these animals foods, sometimes people are deficient. So, testing is important and just keep in mind that if your test shows you’re fine, you should still be aware of your B12 intake.
Vitamin D is another one. I take a vitamin D supplement as well. I’m very pale, so the sun just scorches me, so I don’t like to rely on endogenous production. I think vitamin D is another really important one for vegans because most of the food products that contain it are eggs or dairy milk. Those are things we’re just not consuming. B vitamins are obviously very important for energy production. They’re most commonly found in meat, really. You can find them in grains as well, but the ketogenic diet would not have grains typically.
Allan (15:24): Or at least very little of them, because you would hit your threshold pretty quickly.
Liz MacDowell (15:29): Right, exactly. Not a substantial amount or a significant amount. I actually don’t supplement B vitamins because I put nutritional yeast on of all my food. Not all of it, but you know what I mean. I try to get nutritional yeast in every day, which is a fantastic source of protein. It’s low in carbs and it contains a spectrum of B vitamins. You can even buy nutritional yeast that’s fortified with B12, which would eliminate the need to purchase a separate supplement for that.
Allan (16:01): Okay, cool. I didn’t realize until I read your book how fundamentally good yeast can be. It has a cheesy taste, so I’ve got to figure that out. You had a recipe in the book about these flax seeds that were sort of like fake Doritos. I’m going to try those. We’re recording this ahead of time, but I’m planning Ketofest, a Minifest here. I don’t know if you know Carl Franklin of 2 Keto Dudes, but he wants people to do these keto Minifests, and I agreed to host one. So Carl’s coming down here to Pensacola for us to do this thing. When you’re listening to this, it’s already passed. But I’m planning on making those for that event. I’ve got the recipe, I’ve got the ingredients on my phone, ready to walk to the grocery store later and pick up those things. So, I will be introducing the world to your recipe tomorrow.
Liz MacDowell (17:09): Amazing, thank you! I’m so excited! You’ll have to let me know how they turn out.
Allan (17:13): Absolutely. Now, you had some other items in there that I guess vegans don’t have to so much worry about, and that was the zinc and iodine.
Liz MacDowell (17:29): And magnesium and calcium, I think I list in there too. Exactly, these are minerals which are obtainable by eating whole foods. And in the book, as you know, I list out all the sources. Hemp seeds actually appear on a lot of those lists. I really love them. I’m going to keep telling people to eat them because I think they’re fantastic. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of zinc, magnesium as well. A lot of these foods also overlap. It can be overwhelming at first to look at a list and say, “Oh no, I have to eat an ounce of that, an ounce of that, and an ounce of that.” But really, a lot of the times you can get double duty out of some of these foods.
Allan (18:10): That takes me to the next topic. When we go on what’s perceived as a restrictive diet… It’s funny, I’ll read a study about keto or about at least the high fat, low carb. And a lot of times the researchers will go through and I don’t think they like the conclusion. And so, they’re going to make a statement in their conclusion that, “This is unsustainable, therefore we should throw it out.”
Liz MacDowell (18:41): We have read similar studies, I see.
Allan (18:45): They basically poopoo their whole study. They still need to get it published because they’re looking for a university and they have to get published, and they’ve done all this work. They just don’t like the answer, so they say, “It’s unsustainable, so just do it the way we’ve been telling you to do it.” I can say for a lot of people that really are wanting to get into keto, but there’s this fear factor of, “I’m eliminating all the foods” – I can tell you when I first went Paleo, I had dreams about bread. I mean literal dreams, like I used to dream about women. But this was bread. Kind of an interesting dream to wake up from and say, “Do I smell bread cooking?” You put some guidance in your book about stress-free ways to get into keto, and I really appreciated the tips that you had in there. Would you mind sharing those?
Liz MacDowell (19:46): Thank you. Absolutely. I think my biggest thing is – and I mention this in the book too – my favorite adage is the best diet, or the best exercise routine, or the best supplement routine, or insert a thing here, is the one you can stick to. If you start right out of the gate with this tiny list of acceptable foods and this super strict schedule for eating and all of your apps and all this madness, it’s kind of like a second job to try and achieve this diet. It’s probably not going to work unless you’re already doing that with a different diet. I always think that you should ease into it and do what’s best for your body. And if that’s going cold turkey and diving in and hitting that 20 grams a day and giving up everything you’ve ever loved food-wise – if that works for you, that’s awesome. But it doesn’t really work for everyone. So, I often advocate just easing your way into it and picking a reasonable number of carbs to stick with, or even ignoring tracking altogether for their first little bit. Just focusing on eating low carb foods and seeing how you feel.
Allan (21:01): I completely agree and I think that’s one of the cool things. When I first saw your book listed, I thought it was a cookbook, just a cookbook. I was pleased to see that it wasn’t, that it had this other stuff in it to help someone. To me that is one way if you want to ease into this – to buy a book that has some recipes in it, and try the recipes, using them as a substitute for the meal you would have had otherwise. So if normally you would have had a dinner with an animal product, and potentially you would have had some starches and probably even some high glycemic vegetables, like carrots or whatnot – now you’re going in and saying, “Here’s an entree and here’s a side from this book. I’m going to have a ketogenic meal.”
Liz MacDowell (21:54): Exactly. And that’s one of my favorite ways, is just one meal at a time, or even one food group at a time. If you rely heavily on rice, maybe try switching out for cauliflower rice and see how that feels. I guess the most that you can do for yourself is be kind and listen to your body and understand that you are not like everyone else. You might not function all that well if you go from eating 250 grams of carbs a day down to 20 grams a day. I think most of us struggle with that at the beginning.
Allan (22:27): Absolutely.
Liz MacDowell (22:29): I think that when people take this “all or nothing” approach, some are great at it. Some people need that, but for others it can be really intimidating and kind of scare them off.
Allan (22:39): Okay. Other tips that you had?
Liz MacDowell (22:47): Don’t necessarily listen to people on the Internet – that’s a big one.
Allan (22:51): But they’re so sure of themselves.
Liz MacDowell (22:54): I know. They’re so angry about it too. I didn’t realize my breakfast impacted your day that much. I see this all the time. Someone posts a picture of their meal and then the comments on Facebook in the group, or on Instagram are like, “That’s not keto” or, “I can’t believe you’re eating this” or, “Who told you you could eat that?” Calm down, don’t listen to that. If that’s what makes your body feel good, then eat that food. Sometimes it’s genuinely people wanting to help someone else and saying, “I don’t know if you realize, but this has this much sugar in it”, or whatever. But you do see a little bit of unnecessary food policing, and I think that a big factor is to tune that out for a little while.
Allan (23:37): I’ll admit, there’ve been times when I saw something on a forum or something that was out there, and it was really more I didn’t want other people doing this.
Liz MacDowell (23:49): For sure.
Allan (23:53): She probably listens to the show; I’m calling her out again. But she would go to McDonald’s and tell them she wanted the McDouble, and give her two McDoubles but only give her the meat and the cheese. Basically she’s got four beef patties and the cheese that’s on each one. So, four slices of cheese and four beef patties, and she would eat that as a meal. I said I think that’s far too much protein. That would probably knock me out of ketosis because of the amount of protein. And she came back and says, “No, I tested. I’m staying in ketosis. It’s great. And I’m lifting heavy.” It works for her and it’s great. At that point I said, “Okay, I’m glad it works for you.” We’re all very, very different in the way that food affects us. I wish it was that simple – one size fits all, and then life would be beautiful. But unfortunately, there are foods I can’t eat because they adversely affect my health. And so, I do agree. Taking what you’re saying, someone is probably coming from a good place, but they’re not recognizing that what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, the motivations of what you have and the limitations of what you have are all there. So, I completely agree with you on that one.
Liz MacDowell (25:24): You also raise a good point though, in that I see a lot of things tagged on social media, I think to get more views, saying, “This is a keto recipe”, when in no universe it’s keto. Like the main ingredient is banana or something. So I think that’s another one.
Allan (25:38): And they’re not always that bad. But there are some of them where it’s like, “Okay, fine, but we don’t need keto cookies. We just don’t.”
Liz MacDowell (25:53): I think there are a lot of products out there that we don’t really need, that we’re kind of being told we do need.
Allan (25:59): Yeah. And I knew it was coming when keto started building up and everything. Now they’re selling fat bombs, now there are all these exogenous ketones.
Liz MacDowell (26:11): They’re everywhere. There’s an MLM for them.
Allan (26:14): Right. It’s cool to occasionally have some kind of treat from the past. It’s cool to say, “I would love to have a keto pizza.” And it’s cool – have a keto pizza. But everything you’re eating shouldn’t be the same kind of foods you were eating before. We’re in this to be healthy, so you start transitioning over to whole foods.
Liz MacDowell (26:46): I have a rule with myself where if I want that kind of junk food thing, I have to make it myself. If you really want it, then yes, you’ll go through the effort to spend an hour, an hour and a half in the kitchen, making the cookie or the donut. I guess it’s not really that long, but you know what I mean. You’ll go through the effort, and then it’s kind of worth it.
Allan (27:08): And as a special treat, because you’re saying, “I really do want this.” So when we were talking about your mock Doritos, they’re made with flax seeds. Everything that’s going to go in there is ground flax seeds and yeast. I’m going to lay them out and I’m going to put them in the pan and cook them. I think the total cooking time, all in, is 30 minutes.
Liz MacDowell (27:32): Yeah, it’s pretty simple.
Allan (27:34): So, I’m going to get two cookie sheets and make enough that everybody can try some. I’m going to have your book open to that page, printed out sitting right there and say, “If you guys want to take this home, there you go. Go get the book, because there’s a lot more in there.” There are 60 recipes in the book.
Liz MacDowell (27:52): That’s awesome, thank you.
Allan (27:55): This is a treat. I’m having people over to my house and we’re all keto. So I’m like, “Let’s try this treat.” But that shouldn’t be the staples of your everyday eating.
Liz MacDowell (28:04): Right, exactly. And I think it’s so easy to forget that. Although I’ll admit while I was writing that book, they became the staples of my everyday eating, because I was so hesitant to waste anything.
Allan (28:17): It’s both. I’ve tried to develop different types of recipes and tried to experiment with the food to try to get different effects and see what things are doing. And as you’re doing that experimentation, you eat what you made, and sometimes it’s not good, but you’re not going to throw that food out.
Liz MacDowell (28:37): That’s so true.
Allan (28:39): But I stumbled across something – I call it “Allan’s fluff”. It’s the weirdest thing. Again, it’s not vegan, so anyone that’s looking at vegan, this does not fit your profile at all. It fits mine.
Liz MacDowell (28:51): I’ll just ignore the parts that don’t apply to me.
Allan (28:53): All of it doesn’t apply, but I guess you could make it part of it. But it’s sour cream, and it’s vanilla-flavored, but unsweetened – basically it’s sweetened with Stevia – protein powder. Now, I’m using a whey protein, but you can use a pea protein. Again, it’s vanilla-flavored. When you mix those two things together – basically about a cup of the sour cream, so eight ounces of sour cream, and a scoop of the protein powder, so about 27 grams of protein – it fluffs up like whipped cream. Vanilla-flavored whipped cream. Yes, it’s delicious. So yesterday – again, we’re planning something coming up, and I was thinking, what if I put pumpkin spice in that? What would that be like? I was testing that, and of course I had to eat my creation. It was good. I stirred it too much, so now I know I need to put the pumpkin spice in while I’m stirring it together, so I don’t break it down, because it will break down if you keep stirring it. So, you’re experimenting; you’re learning new ways to make food or make things interesting. For me it’s a great dessert or just a little afternoon snack if I want something like that, but it’s not something that I’m eating on a daily basis.
Liz MacDowell (30:15): Right. Something I do in the summer actually is really similar to that. In the summer I say because my kitchen’s like 96 degrees and I just can’t be bothered sometimes. But I’ll take full fat coconut milk, and mix it with some protein powder and toss in a couple of frozen berries, like a quarter cup, and mix all that up and it becomes very fluffy and delicious.
Allan (30:35): Cool, awesome. And that’s all I’m saying – experiment and have fun with your food, because too many times when we stress out about food are the things that we can’t eat. And instead, start exploring the things that you can and the flavors and the textures and the different things that you want out of your food to make it that much more enjoyable, and quite frankly, delicious.
Liz MacDowell (31:00): Absolutely. And nutritious. The more variety you eat, the more nutrients your body is taking in. That’s always good. It’s funny too – I think since going keto, the foods that I eat on a regular basis have actually expanded. I feel like I get more variety in now because you’re paying so close attention at the very beginning to the foods you can eat, that you realize there’s a whole section of the supermarket or there are whole types of foods or vegetables that you never really thought about before that are great for keto, like so many different types of greens that I’d never tried before. Now I try to regularly eat mustard greens and dandelion greens – all the stuff that I never thought about before.
Allan (31:49): I snuck some dandelion greens in with some kale and spinach. My wife doesn’t know the difference. She just knows, “It tastes good. He made it.” But I knew it had a different nutrition profile than what we would normally eat, because I took the time to experiment with something else.
Liz MacDowell (32:07): I do that to my husband too – I sneak little bits of all the vegetables into food. You have to sometimes.
Allan (32:15): If I’m doing the cooking, you’re subject to what you get.
Liz MacDowell (32:18): Exactly. Cook’s rules.
Allan (32:21): Yeah. Now, you also told a personal story about some struggles you had when you first got started in exercise. Of course as a personal trainer I want to delve into that a little bit, because people will come to me and they’re like, “I’m keto, but I was told I shouldn’t exercise.” And I’m like, “No, that’s the exact opposite. You have to exercise.” As you put in the book, in the very beginning of this, while you’re going through adaptation, it can be a struggle. You’re going to feel much more fatigued and not have the performance. So I would say, don’t start keto one week before you’re going to do a 5K which you’ve been training for for months, because your performance is going to be off the charts bad. So, can you tell a little bit about your story and then how you would encourage folks to work towards exercising appropriately?
Liz MacDowell (33:21): Absolutely. And I’m laughing at that situation, but really with it, because I’ve been there. Not with a 5K, but as you mentioned, I talk in the book about when I first started keto, I thought I could just do exercise as normal and continue on my merry way, running on the treadmill or outside or whatever. And it turned out to not at all be the case for me. I hit a wall so hard. At the very beginning your body feels like lead, your muscles have nothing to give you. I was holding on to the sides of the treadmill; it was amateur hour. I listened to what was right for my body, which was I slowed the pace down and I realized that something had to give, and for me that was the speed at which I was doing things, or I guess the intensity. I know this isn’t right for everyone, because everyone’s body is different, but for me what I had to do was kind of dial it back, slow down, lay off the intense exercising and be a little more gentle with myself, and then ease back into it. But for some people they can eventually push through the first few terrible workout.
Allan (34:32): Yeah, and a lot of it’s going to depend on the type of work that we’re doing. In my example, I was lifting heavy, but that’s very anaerobic-type work. I just do a quick set and I’m done. The energy that I need is all coming from APT, so it’s there. For that set, I don’t need to go to muscle and liver glycogen. I have all the energy I need to get that done. I take my two-minute break and everything is reset and I go in again. When you’re running, or any kind of aerobic exercise, that’s where I see most people will have the most difficulty. If they haven’t set their mindset to understand that there’s going to be that decline in performance, it really can be disheartening.
Liz MacDowell (35:23): For sure. There are ways to improve your performance though. I’ve seen really great results with a lot of people that I’ve worked with them and I just know. Simply adding in a few extra carbs before their workout – just make a smoothie, put some berries in it, and then give yourself that sort of bridge, like the bridge energy to get yourself through that workout.
Allan (35:46): You’re timing your carbs in such a way that they’re optimal at the time you’re going to most need them. And the other side of it is because of the aerobic work that you’re doing and burning off the muscle glycogen, when that hits your system, your body’s not going to initially need to have a huge insulin spike to protect you from it, protect your brain from it. It’s going to say, “The muscles are working and they’re going to need this.” Insulin not only shuttles the blood sugar to fat cells, it also shuttles it to the muscle. Even that little spike of insulin is not a bad thing, if you have the energy expenditure to make up for it. So I agree – meal-timing is really key. And then the other side of it is, just sticking with it.
Liz MacDowell (36:37): And insulin is anabolic too, so it can help you to help those gains.
Allan (36:43): It does. So you can time the meals if you need to. My trainer at the time, we would have conversations about this, because he really didn’t understand what I was doing when I first started talking to him about it. He knew what ketosis was, but he was like, “No, no, no. I don’t want you coming into the gym in the morning having not eaten. You need to eat before you come here.” I said, “No, I’m coming in. I’m completely fasted. That’s how I’m going to train. I don’t really want to lift weights in the morning, but that’s when you can train me, so that’s when I’m going to do it.” And I would go in completely fasted and have the energy to do it. That said, it was expenditure and then rest, expenditure and rest. So that was very different. I have a friend that runs distance and she puts on well over 100 miles a month. Her husband’s gone keto and he said he did 11 miles. So, a lot of people see performance improvement after they get through to that adaptation, which can take several months. But once you get to full adaptation, your body learns how to manage the glycogen stores to allow you to do. Now, anything over, say, 90 minutes, you might need to refeed a little bit of carbs, but for anything less than 90 minutes, unless you’re really, really busting your butt, your body will adapt.
Liz MacDowell (38:16): Yeah. And along those lines, I think you just learn how much you need to refeed and when you need to refeed. I love hiking. I love hiking mountains. The White Mountains in New Hampshire are so much fun, and some of them are fairly sizable. You’ll have 5K, 6K feet of elevation gain, which is super fun. But it also is very intense and takes a little more than an hour. I tend to find that on those days I need to bring along carrots with me as a snack, or even an apple, which feels like such a weird treat, but there you go. At the end of the day I’m still in ketosis, because over the course of that day, you’ve used up all of that sugar.
Allan (38:55): Yeah. It never really had an opportunity to impact your metabolism, because it was immediately being shuttled into the work that you were doing.
Liz MacDowell (39:05): Right.
Allan (39:06): Cool. Liz, if someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about this book… I’m interested to try some of the other recipes as well, but it’s not just a cookbook. There are 60 plus recipes in here and a lot of great information to help someone get into ketosis, but beyond that to understand how you can be vegan and keto. Where would you like for me to send them?
Liz MacDowell (39:34): MeatFreeKeto.com is my blog, where everything is, and that will have links to Vegan Keto, which is my cookbook – vegan keto book, and all that information.
Allan (39:46): So you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/348, and I’ll be sure to have links to the book and to Liz’s website MeatFreeKeto. Liz, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Liz MacDowell (40:00): Thank you so much for having me. This was such a fun chat.
Allan (40:09): If you enjoyed today’s episode, would you please take just one moment and leave us a rating and review on the application that you’re listening to this podcast right now? I’d really appreciate it, and it does help other people find the podcast, because it tells the people that are hosting these podcast episodes out there on their apps that you’re interested and they know that other people like you might be interested. So please do that. If you can’t figure out how to do that on your app, you can email me directly and I’ll try to figure it out for you. Or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, and that’ll take you to the iTunes where you can launch that and leave a review there. I really appreciate the ratings and reviews. It does help the podcast, it helps me, so thank you very much for that.
Also, I’d really like to continue this conversation a little bit further, so if you haven’t already, why don’t you go ahead and join our Facebook group? You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group, and that’ll take you to our Facebook group where you can request entry. It’s a really cool group of people, likeminded, all in our 40s, all trying to get healthy and fit. I’d really love to have you out there and have you a part of that conversation. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group.
In his book, Ketotarian, Dr. Will Cole gives us a guide on keto for vegetarians and vegans. Many people believe that keto and vegetarians and vegans are two different paradigms, but Dr. Cole shows us that we can have the best of both worlds.
Allan (1:05): Dr. Cole, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Cole (1:10): Thanks so much for having me.
Allan (1:11): The book is called Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation. And just to start out with, I have to thank you profusely for writing this book. If I see another “bacon, bacon, bacon” conversation about keto, if I had hair I would pull it out. It’s one of those things. Yes, we want high fat, but that doesn’t mean that you just do away with the fact that our body needs the nutrition from the food, and not just the fat. So, I really did appreciate your approach to, one, how you explain the process of this working, and two, you actually put it together for folks with recipes and everything else.
Dr. Cole (2:01): Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. And that’s honestly one of the main reasons why I wrote Ketotarian, was to bring something new to the conversation. Like you said, the “bacon” conversation has been done. We don’t need another conventional ketogenic cookbook or health book out there. So I think something fresh, a plant-based, ketogenic conversation has been started.
Allan (2:26): Yes, and that’s why more and more of my clients are asking about this, like, “I really don’t want to eat a lot of meat and I’m trying to stay more vegetarian or more vegan.” There’s been this conversation that’s swelled up from behind me on this. I eat a lot of plants, but it’s within the realms of knowing my macros and knowing what my body can tolerate. Could you take a few moments to explain what ketotarian actually means and how someone would consider doing something like this?
Dr. Cole (3:00): Sure. Ketotarian is a book that we’re talking about. It’s my plant-based ketogenic book. Half of the book is science and health tips and functional medicine sort of perspective, which is where I come from, and ethos of why we’re doing this. And the heart of wellness that I think has to be at the foundation for sustainable wellness is really having self-respect. Self-care is a form of self-respect, and eating healthy foods and taking care of yourself is a form of self-respect. It’s a different conversation that’s being started for a ketogenic book, but I think seeing patients I realized for someone to sustainably be successful for any way that they’re eating, it has to be coming from a place of self- respect, presence, and loving your body enough to nourish it with good foods. So that’s really the cornerstone of Ketotarian in the first half of the book, plus all the health benefits of ketosis and the health benefits of being plant-based, and all the science and research. It’s heavily referenced, as far as the scientific literature is concerned.
And then the second half of the book is recipes, meal plans, all this practical stuff and pretty pictures. There’s over 81 different vegan, keto, vegetarian-keto and pescatarian-keto, or what I call in the book Ketotarian – another play on words – plant-based, but with wild caught fish and shellfish. So people can eat one way, they can just be vegan-keto, or they can eat a mixture of vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options. And it’s this 8-week, plant-based keto experience for people to shift their body from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, get the anti-inflammatory benefits of ketosis. That’s what they’re doing in ketotarian. So it’s a play on words. I had somebody point out to me, I kind of created a celebrity couple name out of the title of my book. So, like Brangelina, this is ketotarian. It’s this amalgamation of the best of both worlds of being plant-based and keto.
Allan (5:15): The interesting thing is, I have a lot of keto authors on here, and I have a lot of vegetarian and vegan authors on here. It’s because I don’t want to be prescriptive about what someone’s going to eat. I need them to be comfortable that this fits their lifestyle, this fits them as a person. I’ve even said that to people, that when I talk to someone who’s on the keto side, who’s really successful at it – has gotten rid of their inflammation, is healthy, or I talked to someone on the vegan side who’s healthy, they’re always talking about whole food. They’re not talking about packaged things. Some of them do go a little under the bacon side on the keto, but that all said, I think it created this “us versus them” that really didn’t have to exist.
Dr. Cole (6:02): Absolutely. It’s a very strange thing, but I think tribalism is really deep in America right now on many different levels. And I think that this is just one sort of weird aspect of tribalism where it’s completely unnecessary. The dogmatic sides of both camps is just unnecessary, because we actually have way more in common than we don’t. I think Ketotarian illuminated the fact that there are so many commonalities there. And ketogenic, that way of eating, really can be any modality of eating. It could be pescatarian, it could be vegetarian, it could be vegan, it could be more Mediterranean with the fish too. There are so many ways to do it. And then obviously we have the carnivore diet that’s coming up, which is a form of ketosis, a higher protein ketogenic approach. So you have really all these different forms of ketosis, therefore it doesn’t have to be this “us versus them”. It’s just a way of using food to our advantage, to put our body into this anti-inflammatory, fat-burning state.
Allan (7:12): One of the cool things that you brought up in the book is, this is really about being aware and mindful of the food that you are eating. So this is not just happenstance. Obviously, yes, if you eat a predominantly meat-based diet that’s not lean meats, you’re probably going to go into ketosis at some level. If you’re eating a high fat diet with bacon and all the other stuff that’s coming out of boxes that are marked “keto-friendly”, you’re going to go into ketosis. It takes a little bit more, I think, mindfulness and a more sound approach to food when you’re trying to do it from the vegan or vegetarian aspects. And you had this term you used in here called “ketotarianisms”. Could you take a minute to go through those? I think this really highlights what I’m after here, about how you start getting a lot more mindful about your food, you start focusing more on the quality, and you end up a lot healthier for it.
Dr. Cole (8:10): Yeah. So ketotarianisms are the basic tenants of this way of living and eating. It is basically when you are having a healthy fat, add a green, not-starchy vegetable, and then conversely, when you have a non-starchy vegetable, eat a healthy fat. And then eat when you’re hungry, eat until you’re satiated. These are some of the ketotarianisms that people can live. These are basic principles that really are common sense when you read them, if someone wants to keep it simple. In Ketotarian, I wanted to show all the biohacker, science stuff where people can lean into, or they want to take their wellness to the next level, but I realized there are going to be a lot of people that are reading Ketotarian that are new to this, that feel overwhelmed or, “Where do I start?” I think things like the ketotarianisms or the “keeping it simple” options in the book are really a good segue for people to lean into it and still get the benefits of these healthy, real foods without feeling like they have to go zero to 60 and understand all the science to get started. It’s really not necessary at all.
Allan (9:29): I had a client and he was telling me it’s blueberry season and he can’t help himself every time he goes to the farmer’s market. He wants to eat low carb. And our ancestors, when berries were abundant, they ate the berries. There’s nutrients in the berries that your body needs. Enjoy the berries while they’re in season, because you’re only going to get them for a few more weeks, and you’re not going to have the berries. I think a lot of us get tied up in the “We have to eat this way” or “We have to eat that way.” And there’s so much what I would call “biodiversity” of how each of us handles carbs, our insulin resistance, those types of things. One of the things that you had in the book that is a little different than the guidance I see from a lot of the keto space is that instead of focusing on total carbs, which the 20 grams of total carbs is the earmark out there – you’re going to go into ketosis if that’s what you’re eating. But you focus more on net carbs, which allows us effectively to eat a lot more high fiber vegetables. Could you talk about the net carbs? Having net carbs someone could probably get away with and still get into ketosis or get the benefits of the low carb eating. And then compare and contrast that with total carbs.
Dr. Cole (10:45): Sure. So, total carbs are the sum of all fiber, sugar and sugar alcohols and everything. Net carbs is subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols, if there are sugar alcohols in wherever you’re eating. But basically the fiber, the soluble fiber and the insoluble fiber, we’re subtracting in ketotarian, and many other ketogenic resources you’ll find in books and online too. But Ketotarian definitely does talk about how when we’re working on and focusing on real non-starchy vegetables and real plant foods, that’s when you use net carbs. You do not use net carbs whenever you’re eating junk food and boxed foods and you’re just trying to make yourself feel better by having carbs. At that point it’s not in its whole food form, it’s not in alignment fully with nature, and you can manipulate numbers, I think, for the sake of dieting that isn’t going to produce the same results as if you ate an avocado with tons of fiber, or any other vegetable with lots of fiber when it’s in this whole food form. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re considering net carbs.
So, in the book for all the recipes, I give the net carbs because it is basically subtracting all the fiber. What I allow for, or what I recommend I should say, in Ketotarian, is the first week or so – and sometimes people should do longer than a week – they should do about 25 grams of net carbs throughout the day. So every day their max should be 25 grams of net carbs or less. From there they can find their carbs sweet spot during these eight weeks of being in ketosis from this plant-based approach. Now, the max allowance in ketotarian is 55 grams of net carbs a day. I just wanted something basically average to allow people to have lots of vegetables in, but I know as a functional medicine practitioner that there’s biological variability. I realize that there are some people that will do better with a little bit less, there are some people that can get away with a little bit more. I have some people in ketosis up to 100 grams of net carbs from non-starchy vegetables, because they’re insulin sensitive, they don’t have a lot of inflammation, and they’re fine there. They’re fasting and they can get away with this. But most, I think 55 grams. Why I put it in the book is because it’s the middle of the road for most people to get the benefits here. They can implement it into intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding, and we talk about that in the book. They can still get all these cool benefits while not restricting their plant foods.
Allan (13:33): The great thing about this is, so many of us, when we first start getting into ketosis or thinking about ketosis think we can’t have fruit. A lot of your recipes do actually have fruit in them. So this is an area where we are, because we’re going to go for the high fiber type of fruits. We are going to be able to eat more fruit with this. When I think about the number of how much food you can eat of non-starchy vegetables with that many grams of carbs – that’s pretty substantial. This is going to be the bulk of your food. This is going to be your entree, and not a meat entree. This is going to be your main source of energy and food, less so the proteins that we would normally have in a steak or something like that.
Dr. Cole (14:26): Exactly. It’s plant-centric. I think that people can pick their level of where they want to go with this. I’m not saying everyone has to be a vegan-ketogenic eater, but definitely when we bring the vegetarian options like the eggs or the ghee, or the pescatarian options with the fish or the shellfish – it’s still plant-centric. These are just different food medicines to bring into this clean, keto way of eating.
Allan (14:54): And that’s what I really liked about it – it said, “Here are the nutritional aspects of how you’re going to eat. These are the net carbs you can get.” And then beyond that, it went through and said, “If you want to make it a little easier to do this, then here’s the option for you to do the vegetarian versus the vegan, and here’s an add-on if you want to include some fish or shellfish. It’s going to have these particular benefits.” So, it’s something that somebody can really look at their way of eating and be thinking about, “How do I make this work for me?” It’s not just this fixed go. And your recipes also break that down, where there are some recipes that will have fish, some that will have eggs, and others that are completely vegan.
Dr. Cole (15:36): Yeah. And I think to your point, with your client with the berries, that’s something that I really wanted to have, this grace and lightness to food. We shouldn’t be stressing about and obsessing about our food and making food this arduous, negative thing. I wanted to recalibrate the conversation, especially in the keto world, which I think can be a little bit too obsessive with foods, and shaming, and orthorexic in a way. What I wanted to say is, “Let’s do this for eight weeks. Let’s shift the body into ketosis. Let’s get the benefits of ketosis.” But from there, like you said, seasonal ketotarian is mentioned in the book, because during the summer if you want to have more fruits and more natural carbs into your life, you normally buy seasonal fruits – then do that. Some people love that and enjoy that, but during the colder months they’re more in ketosis naturally and eating more of this primal way of cycling ketosis approach throughout the year. And some people do that cyclic approach throughout the week, where they’re doing two to three days higher carbs, the other days in ketosis. Again, this is all in the context of real foods. This, I think, needs to be talked about more in the ketogenic world, because so many of them are very dogmatic in the sense of, if you leave ketosis, you’re somehow doing your body an injustice, and that’s not the point of the ketogenic diet and it’s basically all or nothing. I don’t think it’s all or nothing. If you really say “all or nothing”, you obviously haven’t talked to patients or clients and seen biological variability, because you’ll be proven wrong all day long, hanging your hat on one way of doing anything when it comes to food.
Allan (17:28): They would have to kick me out of the Keto Club, because I do the seasonal ketosis. And that’s because there are certain times of the year where I know it’s going to be easier for me to maintain the low carb and just get a little bit tighter on things. And then there are going to be times when we’re in football season and we’re going to come up on New Year and things like that, and I’m going to want to have a beer. My brother owns a brewery, so I’m going to want to have a beer here and there. But I pick my times, I pick my battles, and I’ll go out of ketosis for a period of time. It’s something that’s natural to me, it’s something that feels good. And I don’t have any kind of metabolic problems, so it’s very easy for me to shift fuel sources, depending on how I approach food.
Dr. Cole (18:11): That’s great. That’s the goal of this eight weeks – to build that metabolic flexibility. And you’re right, not everybody has that. Some people with insulin resistance or diabetes or inflammatory problems can’t get away with that. But the goal is to build as much metabolic flexibility as your body allows you to.
Allan (18:31): Yeah. That’s the other aspect of it – some of us are going to go right into ketosis, not have a big problem with it. Others are going to suffer a little bit more, or some really are going to struggle to get into ketosis because their metabolism is a little bit racked and needs some repair. In the book, you share some tips for individuals that are struggling to get into ketosis. Would you mind sharing some of those tips?
Dr. Cole (19:00): I’m just thinking off the top of my head what’s in the book, but one is, if you’re eating a certain level of real food, net carbs or eating plant foods – I would try lowering the amount of carbs as your body adjusts. The state of ketosis – this metabolic, fat-burning, anti-inflammatory, brain-fueled state that we’re talking about here – is through carb restriction. So it’s not necessarily eating tons and tons of healthy fats, even though healthy fats can increase ketones too. But it’s really the carb restriction primarily that will do it. And then secondarily, it’s what do you fill in from that carb restriction? So, lowering your carbs more. If you’re higher net carbs, maybe lower it below 25 for a time as your body gets more fat-adapted that way.
Another tip to get in ketosis if you’re not in ketosis, is to help your body out with getting the benefits of ketosis and raising blood ketone levels with exogenous ketones. You can use MCT oil or different exogenous ketones in drinks or supplements, or you can increase the amount of circulating ketones in the body to get the benefits of it – basically get your boost of energy, help with brain function, etcetera. So if someone’s making that, they’re in this sort of metabolic purgatory where they’re not becoming a fat burner overnight. It may be they’re going through insulin resistance or other health problems, whether they’re slow to make that transition. You can kind of help your body along with some exogenous ketones as you’re making that metabolic transition.
And then some maybe lesser known ideas to help your body get into ketosis is to deal with stress levels and look at sleep, because cortisol fluctuations when someone’s in stress – that can impact the blood sugar, blood pressure, and ketone production. And looking at sleep levels, sleep optimization, which is another thing to consider. Those are some things that are maybe less commonly thought of when you’re talking about, “I’m going to go keto and get the benefits of going keto. I’m going to lose weight”, or whatever it is. You have to look at stress levels; these are important.
Another thing to consider is intermittent fasting. If someone’s not intermittent fasting, which will produce increased ketone levels as somebody is intermittent fasting, they should consider that. That’s another way to produce more ketones, get the benefits of ketosis, but it’s also the effect of ketosis. As someone becomes more and more fat-adapted, it’s a natural result of that. You’re just less hungry, your blood sugar’s more stable, you’re less irritable and hangry. So you just randomly will intermittent-fast, not because you’re trying to or you’re thinking about it, but because, “I’m eating when I’m hungry, and if I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat.” If that involves not eating breakfast or having a lighter meal at a certain part of the day, these variations of intermittent fasting can happen too. So these are some ideas if someone’s having a difficulty, but we have other ones mentioned in the book too.
Allan (22:21): One of my favorites – obviously I’m a personal trainer, so I’m going to like the “movement” one. It’s interesting though – a lot of people will advise people starting into ketosis to actually avoid exercising. And I’ve always had the opposite opinion. While you might not want to exercise at the same intensity, the stress and the cortisol, there is some value to movement and exercise when you’re trying to get into ketosis.
Dr. Cole (22:47): Absolutely. That’s a great one. I think that movement and staying active should be a part of it. It shouldn’t just be food. I think movement is an important part of wellness. Like you said, you may adjust what you’re doing physical activity-wise, but you shouldn’t stop it.
Allan (23:06): Outstanding. Now, if someone wanted to get in touch with you to learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Cole (23:15): Everything’s at DrWillCole.com. There are links to the books, but it’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in independent bookstores too. But everything’s there. I’m seeing patients throughout the week, and we have primarily a virtual clinic where we do webcam consultations for people. So they can get a free health evaluation on DrWillCole.com too.
Allan (23:41): Cool. This is episode 340, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/340, and I’ll have the links there to Dr. Cole’s site and to the book on Amazon. Dr. Cole, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Dr. Cole (23:59): Thanks so much for having me.
Allan (24:06): If you enjoyed today’s episode, would you please take just one moment and leave us a rating and review on the application that you’re listening to this podcast right now? I’d really appreciate it, and it does help other people find the podcast because it tells the people that are hosting these podcast episodes out there on their apps that you’re interested and they know that other people like you might be interested. So please do that. If you can’t figure out how to do that on your app, you can email me directly and I’ll try to figure it out for you. Or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, and that’ll take you to the iTunes where you can launch that and leave a review there. I really appreciate the ratings and reviews. It does help the podcast, it helps me, so thank you very much for that.
Also, I’d really like to continue this conversation a little bit further, so if you haven’t already, why don’t you go ahead and join our Facebook group? You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group, and that’ll take you to our Facebook group where you can request entry. It’s a really cool group of people, like-minded, all in our 40s, all trying to get healthy and fit. I’d really love to have you out there and have you a part of that conversation. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group.
October 5th, here in Pensacola Beach. If you’re anywhere close, you should come down for this. I’m going to be teaching a cooking class on how to cook for Thanksgiving and remain keto. Also, we’re going to have talks from Carl Franklin of 2 Keto Dudes, and myself. It’s going to be a great time to meet other people in the area that are passionate about keto or want to learn more about keto. So, wherever you stand on that spectrum of either being keto and loving it or wanting to know more about keto, this is going to be a great opportunity for you to connect with people and learn a lot more about it. So I’d encourage you to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Ketofest, and that’ll take you to the Eventbrite page. There’s a low fee, $15, to attend. That’s really just to offset some of the cost of food. I really want to help you learn about keto, I really want to make sure I get a good event out there, so I didn’t charge a lot for this. I want to make sure it’s accessible to most folks. If you’re anywhere in the area near Pensacola Beach, I’d encourage you to come down for it. It’s October 5th and it’s going to run from 4:00 until 9:00, and of course, maybe a little later than that. You don’t have to be here for the whole thing. It’s really just about learning about keto, learning how to cook keto, and tasting some of the delicious food, because dinner is included. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Ketofest, and that will take you to the signup page for our little Keto Minifest. And again, Carl Franklin will be here, so it’s a great opportunity to meet him in person.
And then finally, I am still working on the book, and I do need your help. I need your help to be a part of the launch team. If you can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, you’ll see a little form there where you can sign up to be on the launch team. The launch team is going to get a lot of extra goodies that are not going out with the book. They’re going to get some previews, they’re going to get some bonus materials that you’re not going to get if you wait for the book to come out. I know you want to learn about the book, I know you want to be a part of it, so please go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com. Thank you.