I admit it:  I eat a high-protein diet.  Not just low-carb, and not just high-fat.  It’s high protein.

I thought I should make a public confession because every time some dunce in the media opines that the “high-protein Atkins diet” will kill you, low-carbers around the world jump up and down and yell, “It’s not high protein!  It’s high fat!”

Speak for yourself.

It’s true that when most of us switch to a low-carb diet, we don’t replace 300 grams of carbohydrate with 300 grams of protein.  We swap a lot of the carb calories for fat calories, and that’s good.  But a lot of us also swap a chunk of carb calories for protein calories, and that’s also good.   I used to eat pasta with low-fat marinara sauce for dinner.  Now I eat meats and vegetables.  More fat, more protein.  I almost certainly eat more protein — quite a bit more — than people on the standard Western diet.   I suspect a lot of people on paleo and/or low-carb diets do as well.

People who aim for a constant state of ketosis are, of course, an exception.  Many find they have to restrict protein.  Fine, if that’s working for you, keep it up.  But as I stated in this post and others, I see “nutritional ketosis” as an intervention that’s useful and perhaps even necessary for some, but not the ideal state all health-conscious people must seek.  It’s likely less-than-ideal for a large share of the population.

When ketogenic diets were all the rage, I tried getting into ketosis and staying there, but found it difficult.  Restricting carbs to almost zero and eating plenty of fat wasn’t enough.  I also had to restrict my protein intake to somewhere around 50 grams per day.  Even that barely got me past 1.0 on the keto-meter.

After mulling it over, I concluded that if maintaining chronic ketosis requires that much effort, it can’t possibly be the natural metabolic state of our paleo ancestors – at least not my Irish paleo ancestors.  They wouldn’t have restricted protein, and they certainly weren’t importing avocados year-round to keep their fat intake at 80 percent.

Yes, I’m sure they, like other paleo people, prized fat.  But that doesn’t mean they were able to live on mostly fat.  People prize gold too — because it’s difficult to obtain. There just aren’t that many fatty foods available in the wild, at least not in Northern Europe.  Even if you’re a successful hunter of Paleolithic beasts and eating them nose-to-tail, I doubt you end up at 80 percent fat and only 50 grams of protein per day.  The Inuits — our poster-boys for a VLC diet — consumed 240 grams of protein per day, according to one study.  That doesn’t sound ketogenic to me.

I went back to eating high protein because I listen to my body.  I gave myself several weeks to adjust to ketosis, but never felt quite as strong, energetic or alert as when I eat a higher-protein diet.  Wondering why that was the case, I looked to simple math for an answer.

Our brains, mucous membranes and red blood cells require glucose.  Ketones can substitute for some of the glucose, but not all of it.  The bottom line is that our bodies must have glucose – nowhere near as much as the USDA dingbats tell us, but some.

The answer in low-carb circles has always been Yes, but your body can produce glucose by converting protein.  It’s called gluconeogenesis.  Yup, I’m totally on board with that, and I’m pretty sure I rely on gluconeogensis for at least some of my glucose needs.  But we also need protein to maintain muscle mass.  Different gurus have different opinions on exactly how much, but the typical figure for a guy my size would be a minimum of 60 grams per day.

See the basic math problem here?  If I’m only eating 50 grams of protein per day, that might just cover what I need to maintain muscle mass, or it might just cover my body’s requirement for glucose via gluconeogenesis, but it sure as shootin’ won’t cover both.  So if I can only stay in ketosis by going zero-carb and low-protein, I’m either going to run short of biologically necessary glucose or lose muscle mass.  (If I’m missing something in the equation, somebody can enlighten me.)

When I’ve mentioned that I don’t aim for ketosis and don’t believe it’s the natural human metabolic state (at least not as a constant state), I’ve had well-meaning people assure me that if I’m not in “nutritional ketosis,” it means I’m still primarily a glucose-burner.  Let’s see how that holds up to simple math.

Suppose I consume 150 grams of protein in a day, plus 50 grams of carbohydrate.  That would be a typical daily intake for me, and definitely prevent me from going into ketosis.  My body will likely use 50 or more grams of protein to maintain lean tissue, but what the heck, let’s say all that protein ended up as glucose for energy.  In that case, we’re talking about 800 calories of protein and carbohydrate combined.  At my size and activity level, I probably burn at least 2400 calories per day.  That means the other 1600 calories come from fat … otherwise known as 67% of the total.

So no, I’m not primarily a glucose-burner.  I’m primarily a fat-burner, even at a high protein intake.  I don’t know why that doesn’t translate into higher readings on the keto-meter, nor do I care.  What I do care about is feeling alert, energetic and strong – which I do on a higher protein diet.

Once we let go of the “but I won’t be in ketosis!” fear, the question is whether going high-protein provides metabolic advantages.  For most of us (meaning those who don’t over-produce insulin in response to protein), I believe it does.

This study, for example, found that increasing protein to 30 percent of calories (which is what our friend Jonathan Bailor recommends) produced a spontaneous decrease of 440 calories per day and a reduction in fat mass.  As you know, I don’t believe restricting calories is the key to weight loss all by itself.  Your body has to be satisfied with fewer calories, or the elephant will panic and run away.  (That’s a reference to a post about The Rider and the Elephant, in case you missed it.)  When people eat less despite not being instructed to do so, it means their bodies are satisfied.

This study (as well as others) demonstrated that while losing weight, people on a high-protein diet were more likely to maintain their muscle mass.  If you’re trying to lose weight (and I’m sure many of you out there are), you don’t want it to come from your muscles.  That sets you up for a lower metabolism and a less-appealing body composition.  So restricting protein as part of a weight-loss diet could backfire in the long term.  A high-protein diet, on the other hand, has been show to raise metabolism.

I don’t feel the need to make major changes in my diet.  Going low-carb in 2008 was a major change that provided a slew of  benefits, so most of what I do now is tinker.  Last year I tinkered by re-introducing a bit of safe starch and adding some resistant starch.  This year I’ve been tinkering by reducing my fat intake a bit and increasing protein.  It’s still a high-fat diet, but not as high.

Most days I aim for somewhere around 150 grams of protein.  Since I don’t want to slog down 75 grams for lunch and another 75 for dinner, that means I’ve started eating breakfast again – well, most days.  Some days I just don’t feel like it.  I also still pick two days per week for intermittent fasting, meaning I don’t eat until dinner – usually around 7:00 PM.  I accept that I won’t get as much protein on those days.

On the non-fasting days, I’ve upped the protein partly by adding eggs whites to my meals.  Don’t scream.  I know we all think of eggs whites as those icky things the anti-fat hysterics want us to eat instead of whole eggs, but I still eat whole eggs – usually three per day.  However, I don’t want to choke down six whole eggs in the morning for the sake of consuming a high-protein breakfast.  I like eggs yolks, but not that much.  So I’ll eat three eggs with a cup of eggs whites added to the pan.  I’ve also been adding lean cuts of meat to my lunches and dinners – which already contain plenty of fat, so the point isn’t to create a low-fat meal.  The point is to create a high-protein meal.

After extolling the benefits of a higher-protein diet, I’m probably supposed to tell you how much weight I’ve lost.  Trouble is, I don’t know.  I’ve mentioned before that we don’t have a scale at home so I only weigh myself at the gym.  Turns out even that was useless, or at least it is now.

I realized as much when I stepped on the gym scale a few weeks ago.  It’s one of those “medical” scales you see in doctors’ offices, with the sliding weights and the balance mechanism.  It all feels so very precise, sliding that top weight over … and a little more … and a little more until the balance is dead center.

But I knew the gym’s scale wasn’t precise when it told me I weighed 206 pounds.  That’s not an impossible figure – I weighed more than that 10 years ago – but just a week earlier, the same scale told me I weighed 194 pounds.  All I’ve done since then is follow my usual diet and exercise program, which isn’t likely to induce a gain of 12 pounds in seven days.

So I turned to a nearby staff member and said, “This scale has me weighing 12 pounds more than a week ago.”

“Oh, yeah, don’t pay any attention to that thing.  It’s all messed up.”

Makes me wonder why it’s still in the gym instead of being fixed or sent to the scrap heap, but that’s not my concern.

Anyway, I don’t know how much I weigh.  But I can say I’ve had to cinch my belt a notch tighter since tinkering with a high-protein diet.

165 Responses to “Yes, It’s A High-Protein Diet”
  1. Todd says:

    Good stuff Tom as usual. How many grams of carbs do you eat daily now? In your movie the target was 100. Is that still the max target or is it lower than that?

    As a side funny I heard a guy on a podcast say that low carb folks are fos. Turns out he consumes only 100 g/day himself. His definition of low carb was close to 0. LOL. I guess he needed a book title.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I don’t count carbs anymore, but based on what I eat, I’d say it works out to between 50 and 100 most days. Some days it’s much lower just based on taste preference — I happen to like meats, eggs and non-starchy vegetables. Other days I’ll toss in a potato, sweet potato, serving of squash, etc. If I watch TV late at night, I snack on dry-roasted almonds or tiger nuts.

      Saturday night is the high-carb night, courtesy of the nearby Mexican restaurant we like. I eat the rice and beans, maybe some corn chips, and usually have two beers over dinner.

      • Firebird says:

        I am far from a Gordon Ramsey fan, but this scrambled egg recipe is exceptional.


        I have had a hard time losing belly fat. It doesn’t matter if I up my protein, up my fat, lower each, raise/lower carbs…it just doesn’t want to go away.

        It was disheartening to put on a pair of shorts for the first time this year to find a pair that was loose on me last October is now tight around the waist. I hope that’s just winter weight that will come off when spring starts to steady.

        • j says:

          I had a hard time losing belly fat despite trying different macro ratios too. In my personal experience, it’s been possible to overeat even if I’m doing high fat or protein, and/or low carb. The fact that I like to eat quite a bit doesnt help I guess 🙂

          Unfortunately, the only way I’ve made a dent is by doing moderate intensity cardio and strength training, 5-6 days a week (Keyword: moderate intensity..not high intensity). I initially started jogging about 6 miles per week and have built up to about 25 miles per week over a period of several months. By the way, I have never been a fan of jogging but it has become easier, even enjoyable over time. It’s very high impact of course, so it may not be ideal for many.

          For strength training I do a lot of pushups, crunches, dips, and a healthy number of pullups throughout the week. Like the jogging, I initially started small and since then have made considerable gains in strength and number of reps.

          The strength training (which I do first) along with the jogging currently takes me about 60-90 minutes to complete per workout day. But again, it’s important to start small and then build up over months of time.

          Diet wise, I refuse to and do not count calories, so I have no idea what the total intake is. Id say it’s more or less a moderate intake of protein, carbs, and fat although it does fluctuate. I do tend to crave lean meats (chicken breast, egg whites, etc) but I certainly do not restrict myself if I want a steak or dark meat with the skin on. My carb sources are usually rice, rice chex, tubers, fruits, and vegetables..again depending on my cravings. Fat sources include whole eggs, butter, fatty fish like sardines and salmon, and occasional nuts and avocados. I stay away from wheat and processed food probably about 95% of the time (Im not perfect lol).
          Also, I take a good multi-vitamin and fish oil.

          As with anything, your mileage may vary..as this is just a personal experience..

          • Firebird says:

            I’ve been a bodybuilder for over 35 years. 20 of those were spent training 6 days a week. I’ve walked a lot on the treadmill, rollerbladed, elliptical in addition to the weights. What happened to me in those 20 years was that I maintained my bodyweight, but once I added cardio, my strength dropped. I lost muscle and the worst part was my bodyfat went up (I was 10-12% and watched it balloon to 18%).

            The weight/cardio mix is not for me. Regardless of the diet, I just don’t have the energy to train that frequently anymore. I’m too old for the high intensity stuff…bad knee, bad back…what hasn’t the orthopaedic doctor treated?

            • j says:

              Ah, excuse my presumption.

            • Bret says:

              I have always had a bit of stubborn belly flab myself. It went away in Afghanistan last summer (now returning since I’m back home). I did a lot of things differently over there. Walked upward of three miles every single day. Skipped meals every so often, mainly for convenience (chow hall not always open, plus I was usually on duty at night). Did lots of pullups and planks. Smoked about a third of a pack of cigarettes per day (stupid idea which I will never again repeat). This was all while eating margarine (no butter available) and plenty of carbs btw.

              Impossible to know what made the difference (confounding variables). Could have been any of the above by itself or any combination. Or something else altogether. Just wanted to pass it along for what it’s worth.

  2. Scooze says:

    I don’t go for ketosis, either. I agree it’s not a necessary state, unless your metabolism is truly messed up. I don’t eat as much protein as you, probably more fruits and veggies. But it works for me and I’m at a good weight and health.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      And that’s the key.

    • Firebird says:

      Ketosis was rough for me. I had the energy, but it as a weird feeling. I got very deep into it, too. But, I didn’t lose an ounce of fat.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        High ketones indicate that you’re burning fat, but not necessarily body fat.

        • j says:

          Ive tried going the ketosis route several times but sadly never got the results I wanted. But Ive always been fascinated with the idea of ketosis, since supposedly there’s 10’s of thousands of calories stored in the body in fat… opposed to the few thousand stored in glucose. Tapping into that energy source would be awesome.

          • Tom Naughton says:

            Sure, but you don’t have to be in “nutritional ketosis” to tap those fat calories. I lost 12 pounds while on my fast-food diet, even though I was eating a lot of protein and around 100 carbs per day. I know from my ketosis experiment that I wouldn’t reach 1.0 on the keto-meter with that dietary intake.

            • j says:

              “..you don’t have to be in “nutritional ketosis” to tap those fat calories”

              True.. I suppose I meant to say tapping into that source and relying on it almost exclusively for energy. Sort of like the athletes I read about that do the ultra events without refueling on carbs…thats the aspect I find most intriguing.

              • Tom Naughton says:

                Still not sure that requires reaching the nirvana of “nutritional ketosis,” though. I’ve done long days of manual labor on the farm after eating nothing but eggs for breakfast. It wouldn’t qualify as an ultra-athletic event, but it’s hard work. Out of curiosity, I once checked the keto-meter after a day’s labor. Only registered 0.4.

  3. Charles Grashow says:

    So why does Jimmy Moore feel the need to be in ketosis all the time? It’s obvious it’s not working for him weight wise.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      In a post awhile back, I quoted doctors in an academic paper talking about “resistant obese” people who failed to lose weight even when hospitalized and only fed 600 calories per day. Ketosis probably wouldn’t have caused them to lose weight either — and the ol’ Calories Theory didn’t work for them, did it? The doctors were so mystified, they referred to these people as “thermodynamic paradoxes.”

      A documentary I saw awhile back featured a woman who was lean her entire life and then suddenly blew up. She reduced her intake to 1500 calories per day and still got fatter. In her case, it turned out a brain tumor was flooding her body with hormones that made her fat. I doubt ketosis would have kept her thin either.

      The point is, Charles, you should probably stop being such an incredible jackass, gloating about Jimmy’s weight gain. You don’t know what’s going in his body. Maybe he’s like one of those “resistant obese” people who mystified the doctors.

      In my dream world, you and all the other jackasses who take such glee in piling on Jimmy would wake up one day weighing 300 pounds, with Jimmy’s genetics and metabolic issues, whatever they are. Then you’d all have a golden opportunity to demonstrate your superior knowledge of what causes weight gain and weight loss.

      • Scooze says:

        Here here! (Or is it hear hear? Not sure). In any case why are so many people so concerned about one blogger’s weight? If you don’t agree with Jimmy Moore’s views, don’t follow him. But personal attacks are a low blow.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          It’s “hear, hear!” — and thank you.

          • johnnyv says:

            Yes if Boris Sheiko offered me advice on improving my squat etc I would most certainly listen even though he is not muscular or strong. The athletes he produces most certainly are.
            I may not agree with Jimmy Moore on a few issues but it is not because he is overweight.
            As to your point about resistant obese this is just like your normal population bell curves, there are also resistant non-obese and the vast majority of the population is between the two extremes.

        • Firebird says:

          I feel bad for Jimmy in that is is a constant struggle but the one thing the gloaters either don’t know or choose not to discuss is that his blood panels are excellent, and that is probably more important than his waist size.

      • Martin says:

        The thing is: Jimmy demonstrated that he can lose weight on a ketogenic diet! He was publishing very exact data on his blood ketones (definitely in the ketogenic range) and the weight (going down) for two years. He was in ketosis, appetite control worked, he lost lots of weight. It did work!

        As of the past year or so, we have not seen any exact data, he gained some weight and actually admitted that he had trouble staying in ketosis. Whatever he’s been doing and eating in this past year (and yes I understand the stress caused by getting 2 books published!) he has NOT been in ketosis and the Occam’s razor explanation is: he has not been following the ketogenic diet.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          My guess is that it’s not the diet that changed, it’s his body’s reaction to it. Our bodies adapt.

          • Mark says:

            I don’t think you can underestimate what stress will do a to somebody. On a holiday I had recently, I pigged out, stuffed my face everyday (just no wheat), went plodding around slowly as my only exercise occasionally and my weight plummeted. Came back to work and all it’s usual stresses and I started growing flabby around the middle again. Have to really start watching what I eat until my next holiday at least.

            • Mark says:

              “Do to somebody”. I was going to say “do to a body” and got mixed up.

              • Walter Bushell says:

                That reminds me of Boris Badenov and his poem about how to respond when life’s agony gets you down. “Do something to somebody soon.”

      • LooLoo says:


        This is why I love you, Tom.

      • Joe says:

        Maybe there is a prior history with Charles here but I thought your response was a little harsh. I didn’t sense in his post that he was trying to be overly-critical. It sounded like a simple question to me. I know you’re friends with Jimmy and I like his show but is it possible that Charles was just asking?

      • Boundless says:

        re: You don’t know what’s going in his body.

        A reader on the Wheat Belly Blog (Uncle Roscoe) today turned up a 2011 paper that might shed some light on resistant cases – an auto-immune response:

        Apart from possibly suggesting some therapy avenues, this might bring new meaning to the phrase “morbid obesity” as a place people really need to avoid visiting, because it could cause the return trip to be anything but simple.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          There’s a whole lot we just don’t know. But we do know that once you’ve become very fat, your body fights to stay there, or to return there if you lose weight. The big question is why.

          • Martin says:

            But there surely is an emotional component to it. Probably every obese person has been overeating for emotional reasons at some point. In fact, we all have been using food to soothe our fears and stress and unless we found other ways to cope with it we were doomed. This is probably why stress promotes obesity, it causes us to overeat if we cannot deal with it otherwise. My point is: if a diet works pretty well for years (not a week or a month) and then it stops it’s probably because it’s no longer followed or because it’s abused (i.e. one massively overeats). And btw. I am speaking here about no one other but myself 🙂

            • Tom Naughton says:

              Well, stress can certainly provoke an increase in appetite that causes weight gain. But some people undergo hormonal shifts that cause weight gain without a change in diet. My point is that just because Jimmy has started gaining weight, we can’t assume he’s been stuffing himself. That’s why I mentioned that woman I saw in a documentary kept getting fatter even after limiting herself to 1500 calories per day.

            • Miriam says:

              Just N=1 all my interest in stress and emotional eating disappeared overnight when I ditched the healthy whole grains and started eating plenty of fat. For the first three months, I didn’t even eat fruit, and I never had any trouble with cravings.

              That’s just me, but for just me, it turns out that emotion and stress actually had very little to do with it. Now when I’m stressed I’m still stressed, but I don’t have any particular interest in eating to “fix” it.

              I have several friends who’ve tried this who have not been able to get over the emotional and stress eating. That could just be them. Could be something physiological. Could also be that they refused to ever completely and utterly give up all carbs and carbs-that-pretend-not-to-be-carbs (like “low carb pasta” and coconut flour brownies) long enough to break the addiction.

    • Bob says:

      Perhaps Jims weight gain has come about because he`s made a succsess out of life and is less stressed ( a happy chappy ) . All his health markers are apparently very good , he shows no sign of illness etc . This obsession with weight is all wrong ! its health that matters . after all , an anorexic person is all nice and slim but not very healthy . The great Winston Churchill was fat all his life and lived till 91 !
      If Jimmy was to die ( hopefully not ) of some kind of heart disease or diabeties . then we can start analysing his diet .
      Bottom line Charles is dont confuse a few extra pounds with health

    • tony says:

      I t depends on your perspective. Among NFL linemen Jimmy would be considered too skinny.

  4. don says:

    I struggled with a high fat diet and could never satisfy my hunger with fat but as soon as I started raising my protein my hunger started fading. Now I still get hungry after 5 – 6 hours but the signals aren’t as strong and I rarely get hangry!

  5. Boundless says:

    re: … started eating breakfast again – well, most days. … two days per week for intermittent fasting, meaning I don’t eat until dinner – usually around 7:00 PM.

    Bill Lagakos at CaloriesProper argues that the meal to skip is dinner.

    Just food for thought, so to speak. Circadian matters are still not even on the radar for many people who are otherwise health tweakers. I don’t have an estimate for how big a factor it might be. It’s obviously huge for those with insomnia or daytime sleepiness (not otherwise explained by glycemic missteps).

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Interesting. Perhaps someday I’ll try a breakfast-to-breakfast intermittent fast instead of dinner-to-dinner. I find dinner-to-dinner pretty easy, though.

      • Boundless says:

        And just in the news this AM:

        “First, postprandial glucose was 17% higher (i.e., lower glucose tolerance) in the biological evening (8:00 PM) than morning (8:00 AM; i.e., a circadian phase effect), independent of the behavioral cycle effect. Second, circadian misalignment itself (12-h behavioral cycle inversion) increased postprandial glucose by 6%.”

        • Tom Naughton says:


          • Jennifer Snow says:

            Yeah, I’ve noticed that in myself–I HAVE to eat when I get up (even though I’m usually not hungry) or I never WAKE up.

            But my whole body is just so messed up, it’s hard to figure out what to do about it. Inflammation seems to play such a big role with me.

            That and for the past year I’ve been having a super-tough time with low-carb because my stomach isn’t producing enough acid to digest food properly. Eating tomatoes seems to be the worst cause of my bound-up stomach issues, but protein doesn’t help either–seafood is the WORST. I just flat-out can’t eat salmon any more without taking a bunch of acid to help it along. Otherwise it burns my stomach and I may even throw up.

    • I would think the ideal would be to have dinner at sunset (at least between the cancer and capricorn). And when fasting you would only eat the dinner. I think breakfast is given too much credit, when most hunter gatherers have their major meal at sunset. Other times is mostly snacking leftovers or ready to eat things like fruit on the hunt or while gathering.

  6. Davida says:

    I eat pretty high protein as well. Type two diabetic, plus I am still nursing my sixteen month old. At one point after she was born, I was nursing constantly and dealing with a slow healing c section incision (horrible, painful, difficult healing), and was eating well over 200g of protein a day. If I didn’t get enough protein, or tried to settle for bean or nut sources of protein too often, my healing would slow or reverse, I’d feel very.weak, and my milk supply would suffer. Calorie-wise I was consuming well over 4000 calories many days, with no weight gain-everything was going to healing and making milk. Now I’m eating about 150g protein most days. I feel sick and lack energy if I don’t eat enough protein-preferably red meat, but fish is a close second, then dairy. Pork and chicken lag a bit, but not as bad as relying on nut and bean sources. If I feel like crap, tired with no energy, or my blood sugar has been out of whack, nothing helps faster than going to Wendy’s for a double baconator, no bun (well, steak and eggs works, but streak is far less affordable 🙂 ).

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I hear you. If I find myself feeling a bit lethargic, a medium-rare steak usually does the trick.

      • Steve says:

        There are very few conditions that a med-rare steak wouldn’t improve.

        There is a British TV documentary on low-carb diets I found on youtube. One of the points that they made was that protein was more filling than fat. Their “technique” of proving this was not overly convincing, but it is still an interesting point.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Fat by itself isn’t actually that satiating, at least according to the research. Fat and protein together, on the other hand, certainly make me feel full rather quickly.

    • For me if I eat more than 1.5Kgs a week of meat, I start to get ulcers in my mouth. Not sure why. Same thing happens when supplementing with K2. I guess it has something to do with it.

  7. KevinF says:

    I too have trouble getting into ketosis (though I’ve managed a couple of good stretches), but I also realized long ago that, if I’m only eating 300 calories per day of non-fat macronutrients for weeks at a time, then clearly I’m burning mostly fat regardless of ketone production. And I would like to know more about what’s the deal with that, would be nice if one of the community’s academics were to explain that.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yeah, it would be nice to hear an explanation. But the math says I’m burning mostly fat and I’m certainly not running out of energy, so I don’t concern myself with the keto-meter.

    • PhilT says:

      I think the answer lies in the difference between flux and concentration. You may be using a lot of ketones at a low concentration because your cells / enzymes are efficient at it. Conversely someone struggling in early stage ketosis may have high concentrations (acetone breath etc) but not be feeling the benefit as even the high concentration isn’t enough to drive an adequate flux through an inefficient or ill-prepared metabolism ?

  8. js290 says:

    The more “paleo” way to get ketosis is probably to fast:


    Nutritional ketosis as a therapeutic intervention is probably more useful for those expressing obvious metabolic maladies. That is, for some people, fasting may not be an appropriate option.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Like any other diet, it works great for some, not so great for others.

      • Robert says:

        Hey Tom-

        Interesting post. Individual variation does seem to be the key. My genetically skinny friends can’t seem to fathom my ketogenic diet choices.

        They don’t seem to understand that if I go over 40 – 50 g of carbs consistently, then I start running into metabolic problems. I wish that wasn’t the case, but c’est la vie, for me.

        150 g of protein doesn’t seem all that much. Personally I’m in the 80-100 g range most days. So far so good. To each their own range.

        From one tinker to another.

    • pam says:

      nutritional ketosis sounds like a hack;
      but i also prefer to get into ketosis by fasting.
      cause as much as i like butter & coconut, i can’t imagine eating so much.
      to be such diet long term sounds boring.


  9. Per Wikholm says:

    Well Tom, expect visitors from Wilhjalmur Stafansson´s Church of Latter Day Saints at your doorstep anyday soon, trying to persuade you to return back to the true faith of the ketogenic Inuit diet.

  10. Simsalabimbam says:

    Tom, about GNG…

    You write:

    …The answer in low-carb circles has always been “Yes, but your body can produce glucose by converting protein. It’s called gluconeogenesis.”…

    That is not exactly what we say in VLCKD circles. Yes indeed your body (liver and kidneys) will produce glucose, and gluconeogenesis (and glycogenolysis) are the processes.

    Protein is not the only substrate used for GNG. Glucose can also be created out of the glycerol backbone of esterified fatty acids. GNG can also use lactate as a precursor.

    In fact, GNG is essential to ketogenic diets because it reduces the concentration of oxaloacetate in the mitochondrial matrix. The scarcity of oxaloacetate is the key decider in whether citrate is reduced to acetate and from there to BOHB.

    Feel free to stop by /r/ketoscience and we will explain the biochemistry to you.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Regardless of the biochemistry, the bottom line is this: some people feel lousy if they rely on gluconeogenesis for their entire glucose requirement. So once again, it’s a case of “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” “Then don’t do that.”

  11. Nads says:

    I think I’ve been on the same trajectory as you Tom. Just trying out things and listening when my body is happy. So I found ketosis wan’t the best thing for me long term (great every now and again). Have gradually added in more protein and less fat, regular potatoes and fruit, occasional legumes and an occasional rice cake or two. This is the first time in my life since childhood that I have been happy with just eating three times a day. I have found my own “moderation”, as much as I hate the word as it is used by dieticians with respect to diet.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If you’re healthy and happy just eating meals you like, it’s time to declare victory. With the exception of those who have a serious metabolic condition to treat, I don’t think having to count and track everything is necessary — and it can sure take the fun out of life.

  12. Azurean says:

    The paleo community – rightfully – vilifies mainstream nutritionists who keep promoting grains and avoiding saturated fats despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it isn’t not a good thing. Unfortunately, we also have similar people who have been actively promoting “low prot low carb high fat” or “nutritional ketosis” for a long time, and are too deep in their own certitudes to back up. I’ve tried nutritional ketosis, it’s a fantastic hack to lose weight, but I don’t think anyone can thrive on it on the long run, and there isn’t a single civilization or tribe which ate 80% fat – even the fattest pieces of meat are not that fat, and isolated fat sources like butter or olive oil were only available with agriculture and cattle raising, in neolithic.

    That being said, mainstream nutrition has been stuck in limbo since the 60’s, while paleo nutrtion has changed a lot in the past 5 years – protein/fat ratios, safe starches, gut flora… Not thanks to crusaders dedicated to the death to this or that particular theory, but to people like Mark Sisson or Tom Naughton who look at the global picture, try things when they work and abandon these when they don’t. For that, you have my sincere thanks.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      You have my sincere thanks for reading. Given the foods available in the wild, I doubt few if any paleo people were able to get 80% of their calories from fat day in and day out.

  13. gollum says:

    I think all of the “maintain muscle” protein goes to GNG eventually, too. You put new bricks in, old ones come out.
    The body can also make glucose from a bunch of substrates, including glycerol from fat backbone.

    That said, I eat some carbs too to prevent protein wasted by GNG.

  14. Onlooker says:

    You always have such a great way of boiling things down to their basics, Tom. And expressing them so that the layman can understand and use the info. Thanks immensely for your work here.

    I’m sure it helps so many people. And it’s entertaining to boot!

  15. Barbara says:

    Thank you. I kept trying to figure out how not to eat too much protein. I found that if I didn’t eat enough protein I’d get hungry, no matter how much fat I ate. I’m sure I never got to ketosis (I didn’t check) because my levels of Fat to Carb to Protein were too “off” the “perfect”. I am losing weight consistently and that makes me very happy (something I hadn’t done for over 2 years). I keep reading that I don’t have to track my food intake, but I find that if I don’t I don’t have the information I need…finding that balance that works for me. I guess when I get to my healthy weight I won’t need to know as much because I’ll be able to trust my body.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Protein is the most satisfying macronutrient, and there’s some evidence that we remain hungry until we either fulfill our protein requirement or get so full the stretch receptors in the gut say “enough.”

      • Kathy from Maine says:

        Gary Taubes said something very similar to that in one of his books. This is gross paraphrasing, but he said something like you will continue to eat until your body gets the nutrients it needs. If you eat low fat, low protein, and high carbs, you’ll be hungry all the time because your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. This made total sense to me when I read it.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          That’s the main point of The Perfect Health Diet as well. You will be hungry until your body gets what it needs.

        • Nads says:

          I have a theory as to why I seem to have found a way to eat that actually satisfies me for the first time ever. I am now getting enough potassium. Always I have had to have magnesium supplements but I never thought about potassium. Now I’m having a banana a day and sometimes potatoes, and more recently a potassium supplement. But it’s hard to tell as
          I also gave up artificial sweeteners (just stevia) at the same time.

  16. Galina L. says:

    I think that the people who don’t have any particular health/metabolic problems (besides not being naturally thin) just can’t feel any negative effect from eating as much protein as they want.
    However, I started to think that a natural leanness beyond young age could be just the mark of another cluster of metabolic conditions. I noticed that many naturally thin people age faster, have diabetes and develop diabetes at younger age, more often they have anxiety and sleep problems, they even complain on cholesterol levels more often than the people who complain on their weight. The posts about fecal transplants made me think in that direction. Personally, I know no one naturally thin person my age (54) with whom I would wish to exchange health. I am sure there are perfectly healthy thin people around, but they are not that many. In my family naturally lean people have shorter lives.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Well, statistically at least, people who are slightly overweight have the longest lifespans. I think the desire to be rail-thin is more about ego than health.

    • Charles Grashow says:


      I’m 61 – 73″ tall and weigh 160 lbs.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        And therefore an expert on what it’s like to deal with the genetics and metabolism of someone who once weighed more than 400 pounds.

      • tony says:

        Hey Charlie, would you scrimmage with JM?

      • Galina L. says:

        I was not talking about you (I was rather reporting that there was no one around me from whom I would take a fecal transplant), but you are definitely a thin person. I don’t think you can realistically judge JM’s straggle with his weight, I think I can’t judge him as well because I was never morbidly obese. I think the people who once reached a truly abnormal body fat percentage acquired a permanent metabolic damage. The are few exceptions of that rule, which is the rule nevertheless.

        As a host of a blog “LC confidential” recently said in his blog ” if I am correct in my recollection of a book I am currently reading, the chances of losing significant weight and keeping it off for 3 years is about the same as surviving stage IV lung cancer.”

        • Tom Naughton says:

          So Charles is a tall, skinny guy — certainly an expert on what ails someone like Jimmy — and also 61 years old, if he’s telling us the truth. The age surprised me. He acts like an adolescent boy, a member of one of those hyena packs in middle school who go after the fat kid. I just assumed he was young and immature. Old and immature … well, that’s not an attractive combination.

          • Galina L. says:

            I have no idea why Jimmy’s situation resonates so strongly with Charles. Does he need more motivation to continue to be a skinny guy? Or watching somebody to struggle with the issue Charles doesn’t have adds joy to his life? It is not uncommon for human beings to have low motives, but most who have avoid demonstrating it.

            • Tom Naughton says:

              Lord only knows. Some people seem to be missing the part of the brain that says, “Hey! You’re coming across like an ass#$%@ right now.”

  17. Armando says:

    I was doing strict lchf diet the first two months, but got tired of counting carbs. I am mindful to not eat grains, breads, or refined carbs. I manage to reverse my type 2 diabetes and not planning becoming one again. Luckily for me, I love meat, but get bummed out, because when you cook your meat, you kill off the vitamins and nutrients. Then again, I do not want to eat parasites that might be in the meat.

    Tom, weight always fluctuates all the time. I weigh the least in the morning and by bed time I have put on 3 kilos for some reason.

    I love Jimmy, best and nicest guy I have seen. I think he looks fine. There this guy who does a diet based on eating an insane amount of bananas and he lost weight on it. If I did that diet, I would probably be dead by now, but it works for that guy. My point? Like you have said, we are all different. Jimmy offers great advice and he looks pretty healthy. There are some extremely gifted atheletes that play Australian Football Rules and look like couch potatoes. They follow the same diet and training regime as their team mates but do not sport the muscular physique as them.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Sure, weight fluctuates. But I know mine doesn’t shift by 12 pounds in a week.

      I don’t think it’s necessary for most of us to count every carb. If you eliminate the grains and sugars and focus on real food, it’s probably going to end up being a low-carb diet — low, not zero.

  18. Joe says:

    I like this post Tom. It’s important to keep in mind that while as human beings there is probably a general road map for health and weight loss, everyone is still different. The more I’ve studied nutrition, the more I believe that once the science is complete, three key pillars of good health and nutrition will emerge:

    1. Eat real food. Limit anything heavily processed. ( Meat, fruit, vegetables, natural fats,maybe a little whole grains like oatmeal if you can tolerate it.)

    2. If you have prior weight issues, pre-diabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome restrict carbs and increase fat for weight loss and health.

    3. Individualize your diet. ( try keto, intermittent fasting, high protein, slow carb etc.)

    At the end of the day, different things will work for different people. As long, as the first pillar holds true, there are multiple avenues to successfully becoming healthy and fit. Unfortunately, people tend to flock in camps when it comes to nutrition, even paleo and LCHF people. It’s unfortunate. Some people need keto, or fasting. Some people are fine on slow carb diets. Some people even do well with….grains!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yup. Considering that our ancestors lived in different environments and therefore adapted to different foods, it simply makes no sense to declare that there’s one diet that’s best for everyone.

  19. Buzz says:

    Thank you, Tom for this post. It’s exactly what I do and I feel great. And I congratulate you for risking the rath of the vehement low carbers.

    About three years ago, I was obese and had very high blood sugars. (I’m Type 2 diabetic). I went to see a well known low carb diet expert. He put me on the original Atkins diet. For weeks, I followed the diet but lost no weight nor did I go into ketosis. He accused me of cheating which wasn’t true. He didn’t like the fact that his diet wasn’t working and dismissed me out of the practice even when I asked for help to figure out why it wasn’t working.

    Eventually, I raised my protein to between 125 and 150 grams/day and my carbs to between 50 and 75 grams a day. Voila–it started to work. My weight came down, my blood sugar dropped drastically, and I felt great.

    When I went on a low carb website and mentioned what I had done, I was blasted as someone who was anti-low carb and trying to promote a standard American diet. I never said people shouldn’t follow LCHF, I just mentioned what I did when I had trouble.

    Militant low carbers and militant paleo folk are the same as militant vegans or any other similar dieter. They believe what worked for them is right for everybody and aren’t open to the possibility that it isn’t. (This is especially true of those who make money or their livinig promoting their beliefs.)

    We all need to figure out what works for us and tune out those who try to convince us otherwise.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The irony here is that if you followed Dr. Atkins’ original plan, you could easily end up at 150 grams of protein and 75 grams of carb per day. That’s still a low-carb diet, just not VLC.

    • Martin says:

      Militant resistant starchers are the most aggressive and abusive these days…

  20. Megan says:

    the only time I was able to be fully ketogenic for any period of time was when my calories were extremely low and my carbs restricted to around 50grams .Anecdotally, i find that it has to be either or. Very very low carbs – under 20 grams or slightly higher carbs and very low calories – under 800.

    I find eating too much fat unpalatable and despite trying the high fat approach for many weeks my weight just stabilised.

    I recently moved to increase protein by using protein shakes and keeping carbs to around 40 grams. My body composition is changing and the weight is dropping slowly. I only need to lose 20 pounds or so.

    I still have to watch calories though and stay at less than 1800 – but protein is so good at keeping me full that it isn’t hard.

    Do what works for you and keep tinkering because your body changes all the time and what worked last year might not work next year.

  21. mrfreddy says:

    1) Haha, what’s so hard about “slogging” down 75 grams of protein? That’s only about 10 to 11 ounces of meat… I have trouble eating less than that in a single meal.

    2) I’ve never been persuaded by the idea that protein is more satiating than fat. Sometimes I have a protein shake with almost no fat and sometimes I’ll have a coconut milk smoothie with no added protein… that later is a hell of a lot more satiating than the former.

    3) Awesome response to CG up there. Just awesome.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m sure it varies among individuals. In the research, protein has been shown to be the most satiating, at least on average. I haven’t seen if one type of fat is more satiating than another.

      • j says:

        I would say that protein shakes are one of the exceptions. It’s an extremely fast acting protein..it gets metabolized very quickly. Thats what it’s meant to do…so no it’s not going to be satiating or as satiating..

        I do agree with #1 though lol..I have no problem putting away a pound of meat in one sitting..

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Yeah, those are easy. I usually drink one immediately after the workout at the gym.

        • Firebird says:

          I can go 4 hours on a protein drink. The fill me up pretty good. Most powders are low or non-fat. I add peanut or almond butter to it. That helps

  22. Shawn says:

    Thanks for writing this Tom. I have been struggling with taking weight off trying the “more fat less protein” approach and I agree with you. When I first did the Atkins diet back in 2004 I went down to my lowest weight (219 lbs). Of course I didn’t feel great because of all of the fake/low carb chemical foods I was eating but I felt that if I focused on eating more protein and not avoiding fat, I did my best when it came to fat reduction.

    Since my Dad passed away from T2 Diabetes effects in 2013, I made a renewed effort to stay in shape and have been on the LCHF diet ever since. I did drop some weight (25 lbs) which I would not say is a failure by any stretch but I find eating more fat and less protein has stalled my weight loss. I’m about 20 lbs off of my low when I was on Atkins 10 years ago.

    Your post is very timely as I do remember having more protein and more fat loss. I’m going back to more protein and well see how it works, Thanks for this post!

  23. Linda says:

    Hi Tom- This is a really great post, and one near and dear to my heart! Although I’ve lost a good amount of weight by going on the Atkins diet, then giving up all wheat and tinkering around with what I eat, I’ve always felt about halfway guilty that I couldn’t ever seem to get into ketosis. I finally decided it wasn’t necessary. Also decided that I needed more protein- too much fat and too little protein and I was getting hungry too often. Now, I just don’t worry about what everyone else does- I just do what feels right to me. This is mostly thanks to you!

    This is totally off the subject, but this brought a smile to my face this morning:

    I’m a retired RN, having spent thirty years at my profession. I’ve seen all sorts of docs in my time. I’ve always felt that Dr. OZ long ago lost sight of “primum non nocere” (first do no harm) that is part of his Hippocratic Oath! It’s good to see that some of his peers are having the courage to call him out on his shady behavior! Now, we need him off the TV so he can quit harming people who innocently believe the crap he spouts!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      My view now is that restricting protein to achieve a reading of 1.0 or higher on the keto-meter is akin to restricting fat to achieve an LDL score below 100. Okay, you reached a numeric goal … are you healthier? Do you feel better? If not, forget about that number and listen to your body.

      • Charles Grashow says:

        Tell that to Jimmy Moore!

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Okay, Charles, here’s the deal: your constant cracks about Jimmy are beyond tiresome. If you want to contribute to the conversations around here, I welcome your input. But the next time you show up to make what you think is a clever crack about Jimmy — or even if you don’t think it’s clever — you’re gone.

          Got it?

    • j says:

      Maybe he took the hypocritic oath..

  24. Wenchypoo says:

    To each his own macros, right?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Indeed. I’m a firm believer in life, liberty, and the pursuit of whatever macro ratio works best for each person.

  25. Julie D says:

    Tom, as always, I love your honesty and openness, and your courage to question the popular ideas. I try to eat what I’m craving most without restricting myself too much, these days. That means I’m eating more safe starches, resistant starches, and more protein, like you’re doing. I haven’t lost any weight, but I feel good, and that’s really what matters.

    I did want to mention, in case no one else has said anything, about the egg whites; I’ve heard that there’s something in them, avidin I think, that binds to biotin. The avidin is partially denatured in cooking, but not completely. The best way to neutralize this effect is to always eat your egg whites with the yolks, which are rich in biotin. But that’s your call. I just thought I’d mention it. Good luck with the higher protein!

  26. tony says:

    Tom, you stated ” eating 50 grams of protein per day, that might just cover what I need to maintain muscle mass.” According to the RDA and WHO, we are supposed to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kg of weight. 50 grams would mean your weight is 62.5 kg or 137.5 lb. No way you cover your needs!

    You mentioned that you weighted 194 lb.

    Thus, your minimum daily needs are 194/2.2 lb per kg *0.8 = 71 grams of protein. Since excess protein won’t hurt unless you have kidney problems and bodybuilders recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of weight, your 150 is in the ball park. Congratulations!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I believe the .08/kg figure was intended to be applied to estimated lean body mass. So if I weigh 194 at 20% body fat (just guessing on that), my lean body mass would be 155.

      That being said, I’d still rather eat extra protein than not enough, and you’re correct: 50 grams per day isn’t enough.

  27. JW says:

    I was doing high protein but found my blood sugars rising along with my hunger and weight. I tweaked and lowered my protein/upped my fat and wow awesome hunger control and weight loss. I’m not sure what to do as I’m a firm believer in high protein for body composition and am worried about going high fat. Has anyone else been in this same position and offer advice.

  28. Robert says:


    What’s up with the Irish thing? I am a mutt, but with half Irish ancestry.

    But I still gotta keep my carbs extra low. Does make one wonder??

    Famine, nutritional deficiencies, generational microbiota, generational emotional patterns, etc.

    Up and coming Nutrigenetics could be very interesting.


    • Tom Naughton says:

      People with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene get bigger glucose spikes than people with more copies. I don’t know if the Irish have fewer copies on average or not — maybe there’s a study somewhere. I do know the Irish are more prone to celiac, probably because Ireland was one of the last places in Europe to adopt grain farming.

  29. tony says:

    Tom, for a better guess at your (or anybody here) body fat percentage, you can view these images:


    Let’s remember two important things:

    1. Health markers rule above everything else.

    2. Research has conclusively shown that those with overweight BMIs (25-30) have the best longevity (the overweight paradox?).

    But if you are contemplating a modeling career….

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I don’t think body-fat percentage is the only barrier between me and a modeling a career.

      If the 194 figure for my weight is correct, my BMI is 27.1, so I should live forever.

    • David says:

      “Research has conclusively shown that those with overweight BMIs (25-30) have the best longevity” – this one doesn’t pass the smell test

      • Tom Naughton says:

        Why do you say that? Here’s a study of BMI and longevity.


        Keep in mind a point I made in Fat Head and in many posts: to have a “normal weight” BMI, you have to be on the skinny side. If you bulk up a bit by lifting weights, if you have thick legs, if you’re naturally barrel-chested, whatever, you’re probably going to fall into the “overweight” category even if you’re not fat.

        • David says:

          Thanks for posting the link Tom. I will review it when I get a chance. Which is it – is BMI irrelevant or do you think the higher range is better? My takeaway from FatHead is that BMI is not a relevant marker to health in that 21-30 range, not that a BMI from 25.1-30 would be generally better than a BMI 21-25. In the lower BMI range, are they taking into account smokers, those who don’t exercise, people who eat the SAD or people who are already sick (either metabolically or from diseases like cancer)? If your BMI=27 and you know you are at a healthy weight for yourself, I get it. To claim to weigh more makes you healthier (or live longer) than a healthy person with the lower BMI, I wonder about that.

          • Tom Naughton says:

            There’s a correlation between muscle mass and longevity. Why, I can’t say for sure. Could be a marker for people who get more exercise. Anyway, if you have decent muscles, there’s a good chance your BMI will be over 25. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that if your BMI is 23, you’ll live longer if you develop a fat belly.

            • David says:

              Knowing your body fat % is the way to go. I would expect a correlation between muscle mass and longevity – you can’t really say that a higher BMI always leads to more muscle mass. If BMI is useless, then maybe you should leave it at that.

        • Firebird says:

          There was a story in a weightlifting magazine going back almost 30 years now of a soldier who was also a competitive bodybuilder. He was in danger of being discharged because his competition body weight, with near zero levels of body fat (3-4%) was over military limits. If I recall, he was 5’8″ – 5′ 10″ and weighed 235 lbs. He was fit and they still wanted to kick him out because it did not matter what the quality of that weight was…they were only interested in the number. He was considered overweight and obese. The last I heard he was fighting it. I do not know the end result.

          • Tom Naughton says:

            That’s what happens when we judge health and fitness purely by numbers.

            • Sky King says:

              As everyone should know…muscle weighs much more than fat, so the BMI method is not a very good weigh (excuse the pun) to determine if one is overweight/obese. I like using the Waist-to-Height-Ratio Method myself, since I think it’s a much more accurate assessment of one’s obesity status.

              Ideally your waist should be no more than half the length of your height. For more precise measurements, here’s a link to a Waist to Height Ratio Calculator: http://www.shapefit.com/calculators/waist-to-height-ratio-calculator.html

              As for your post, it was MOST EXCELLENT! I guess some folks still need to understand that muscle does not come from eating more fats. If you care about your body composition, then you need to up the aminos, not the ketones!

              • Sky King says:

                This is another site featuring the calculator, but it gives better instructions on how to measure your waist. And remember folks, be honest and don’t suck in your belly if you want an honest assessment! ;0)


              • Tom Naughton says:

                I’d say that measurement is useful, but only to an extent. I’ve seen guys at the gym who aren’t fat, but happen to be on the short, stocky side. Probably no way for them to improve their waist-to-height ratio.

                • Sky King says:

                  Suffice to say that it’s not an exact science. There are always exceptions to the rule.

                  But if someone wants to know for sure what their body composition/fat percentage is, then they could always fork over the $$ and get a DEXA scan.

                • johnnyv says:

                  Formula that take into consideration waist to chest ratio as well as height are good for men. Waist to hip good for women in general.
                  The larger the difference the greatly lesser chance of having significant visceral fat.

                  • Tom Naughton says:

                    Including a chest measurement makes sense for guys. Some of the beefy types who aren’t fat don’t have small waists, but they do have big chests.

          • Jean says:

            I joined the Army almost 29 years ago. They were just getting serious about kicking Soldiers out for being overweight. Because of situations like the Soldier described above, they implemented a caliper test, followed shortly thereafter by a tape measure test that could be done by other Soldiers. The tape test is based on a series of measurements. Here’s a link to the latest Army body fat calculator: http://www.armyprt.com/apft/online-apft-and-body-fat-calculator.shtml .

            The standards have changed over the years, most recently allowing a few more pounds before requiring taping, especially for women, and allowing a slightly higher percentage of body fat. I nicknamed it “The Ken and Barbie Index,” because I never believed that the numbers had anything to do with actual body fat, but whether or not you would look good in uniform. Soldiers with thin necks were at a severe disadvantage.

            I officially retire from the Army on May 31st. I loved my job, with the exception of this requirement. This will be the first time in my adult life that my job performance will not be tied to a number on the scale or those dreaded measurements. They’re even on your performance evaluation and can have an effect on whether you’re selected for promotion.

      • tony says:

        To clear your nasal congestion read the Junkfood Science Obesity Paradox Series


  30. Hi, Tom!

    This post was very timely for me. Just last week I happened upon the Facebook page “Optimal Ketogenic Living” and one of the main premises, besides low carb, is to eat more protein than we have been told to eat by the government AND the keto camp. Also, eat less fat if you want to lose weight. It is still a high fat diet, but if you are overweight, you are “eating fat from the body instead of from the plate”. After reaching goal weight, you might be able to increase fat somewhat as long as it does not increase body fat.

    We have heard from the keto camp that fat is satiating, and the way to stave off hunger is to eat more fat, but whatever you do, do not increase protein above the minimum, because it will be converted into glucose, and you might as well be eating high carb!

    I did try, off and on for a couple of years, to eat very low carb, lower protein and pretty high fat. And yes, I did get great numbers on my keto meter, and yes, I did lose weight. But I was hungry a lot and was not satisfied only getting to eat 2.5 oz. of meat with my meal. For me, it was not sustainable, which is why I kept going on and off it for the past couple of years.

    I have now gained back my weight and am on the prowl, once again, for a way of eating that will sustain weight loss, satisfy my large hunger, and promote health. I am hoping that 85g of fat, 120g of protein and 23 net carbs are going to do that for my 5’3″ post-menopausal body. I am plan to use intermittent fasting, and will be eating in a 3 hour window some days, skipping just breakfast some days, and doing some 36 hour water fasts some days, in order to combat insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.

    One thing that I have found is that when I am totally committed to a way of eating, and it turns out to be less than optimal, there is a level of embarrassment to admit that that way of eating is not working and changes have to be made. Thanks for just coming out and saying, without any drama or shame, that the thing you tried did not work for you and that you have moved onto something that is working better.

    I hope that, a few months from now, I will be able to say that I found something that is working better for me.


  31. Tom,

    I have been reading a lot by Dr. Jason Fung, who promotes low carb and intermittent fasting through his practice in Canada. His views are most compelling and I wonder if you have read any of his stuff and/or have an opinion about his viewpoints.

    Below is the first of his writings about why we gain weight and in it he dispatches the Calories In/Calories Out hypothesis quite neatly. He renamed it Caloric Reduction as Primary and calls it the CRaP hypothesis. Love it!


    He often quotes Gary Taubes and Drs. Phinney and Volek in his writings and videos. I’m not sure if he has seen Fat Head, but if he had, I’m sure he would be quoting that, too!


  32. Nads says:

    In terms of people in long term ketosis, one of the gut bacteria experts I heard on a podcast said that very low carb is great for getting rid of bad bacteria overgrowth and losing weight, but then you do need to feed the good bacteria longterm, and provide them with enough resistant starch etc. it could be a reason why some people thrive on VLC but then things don’t work as well for their weight down the track.

  33. Bret says:

    I agree that consuming boatloads of fat, while taking extraordinary care to keep both protein and carbs below very low thresholds, does not sound even close to plausible from an evolutionary perspective. It’s clear to me that ketosis is an adaptation to survive temporary starvation. Inducing it perpetually with macronutrient ratios that can only be sustained in modern agriculture — at least for relatively ordinary, healthy people — seems to make no sense at all.

    Kudos for acknowledging the emperor’s nudity, Tom. Seems to me that a pro nutritional ketosis stance is the dogmatic standard among LC blogs, and it is refreshing to see a contrary example. And a well argued one, too.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m by no means against ketogenic diets for everyone. Some people seem to thrive on them. The mistake is assuming that if some people do very well on them, everyone should.

      • Bret says:

        Agreed, and it complements well the point you made last year on the starch front: that just because low-carb diets are beneficial, this does not prove that extremely low- or no-carb diets are better, or even just as good.

  34. cody says:

    Tom, I really appreciate that you wrote this article.

    I’ve tried the ketogenic diet many times and not lost a an ounce of weight (other than the initial water weight).

    I’ve even tried the Atkins fat fast and lost zero weight (1,000 calories at 85% fat, I was basically eating a soup made out of miracle noodles, broth, and butter every night for dinner and nothing else).

    And on a keto diet I can easily put away 4,000 or more calories per day. I could eat 6 eggs with 4 tb of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese for breakfast and still want more.

    Now, I am 6’4″, but still, it’s just not working for me. And I’ve always felt that maybe there was something wrong with me.

    But fortunately, I’ve experimented enough to have tried an all protein diet (Protein Sparing Modified Fast, for me, basically 200 grams of protein and not much else). I lose weight like gangbusters on that, until I stall, and then I’m done.

    So after going through a very stressful period in my life and gaining back over 100 pounds, I’m struggling. I’m still highly stressed (I have a child with significant health issues and I”m a full time single dad with no help from the mom or from my extended family whatsoever) and I want to get the weight off.

    I asked Robb Wolf about this and he suggested 1 gram of protein per pound of weight. That’s a ton of protein for me!

    So after reading your article, and seeing stuff from the zero carbers who eat a lot of protein, I’m going to really work on upping my protein intake, eating to satiety, and see what happens.

    I’m also going to focus on getting a good amount of fiber in, as well as taking a solid probiotic every day. And I’m trying to get a good amount of minerals in as well (I take magnesium and boron, and I’m drinking gerolsteiner carbonated mineral water).

    I really wish that it was better understood how stress causes weight gain. And I really wish that in our society, we stopped treating obesity and weight issues as a moral failing. You can see the look of disgust in skinny people’s eyes when they look at you. Like you’re some how less of a human than they are.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Some people struggle to lose weight until they go ketogenic, others do much better if they forget about the keto-meter and go high protein. We should never become so enthusiastic about intervention or another that we decide it’s the right intervention for everyone.

      I’m sorry to hear about your child’s health issues. As a dad who adores his daughters, I can imagine how stressed I’d be if one of them was seriously ill.

      We do need a much deeper understanding of how stress and other factors cause weight gain. The blame-game attitudes of those who’ve never struggled with weight doesn’t help those who do. If anything, treating obesity as a moral failing simply adds to the stress.

      Best of luck to you and your child, Cody.

      • BrunoT says:

        Hey Tom, I promote your doc to anyone I come accross discussing weight loss. I’m a walking case study that tends to validate your conclusions.
        1. I have horrific blood chemistry, high triglycerides, sky high cholesterol, low HDL.

        2. I DID have a heart attack 2 years ago, but it turns out it was vasospasms, not blocked arteries, confirmed by a cardiac catheterization. The doc just seemed mystified and said perhaps I had a tiny blockage in a minor artery they couldn’t see in the multitude of tests they did.

        3. The hospital assigned cardiologist gave me the whole gamut of statins and blood thinners and bp meds (even though mine was marginal at worst). I felt terrible for 6 months.

        4. My primary doc also specializes in cardiology, got my records, and diagnosed immediately that it was the vasospasms that cut off the blood to that part of my heart, killing some muscle. I went on calcium channel blockers and have felt ok since.

        5. My calcium score from an MRI was 0. (perfect). The cardiac catheritization confirmed this. High cholesterol, for me, did not mean my arteries were blocked.

        6. My work (call it gardening) for 25 years led me to walk 8-10 miles a day and do strenuous labor (like your backyard projects) all day every day. They think this did a lot to keep my arteries healthy.

        7. Unfortunately due to various drugs and having to stop doing that work due to arthritis and other health issues (potentially mitochondrial dysfunction) I have gained 30 lbs. I do lose about 5 lbs in a week going to low carb, but then I find myself stagnating and unable to sustain it due to craving carbs through the next few weeks. I sometimes wonder if it is my mitochondria craving energy they can no longer provide. I admit part of is is the unvarying diet.

        8. MY wife, always a little overweight in adult life, slowly gained and then suddenly lost 70 lbs and became a real bombshell due to our doctor also suggesting a low carb high fat diet. Took about 5 months. It definitely works great for her. When she goes off she gains about 20 lbs. But for about 5 years she has looked relatively great, so thanks.

        9. Do you have any information on various mitochondrial or other disorders causing weight loss issues? I am still above average in activity level in retirement (54), but I have pretty serious pain issues (arthritis, muscle) that developed in the past couple of years that keep me from doing what I would normally do. I bike, work in my own large property, and such, but at 2,000 calories a day of moderate carbs I don’t lose weight.

        10. I will add that for some, it is a moral failing, or more accurately, a psychological disorder. I will sometimes eat sugar during stress, and I knew a friend who ate herself from 150 lbs to 300 in a couple of years due to some mental issues. That level of eating goes beyond normal hunger and even bad habits. I have never eaten like that, and could count on one hand the number of days in my life since age 30 that I have eaten 3000 calories in a day.

        11. You have, however, given me the knowledge that some of us are not bad, we just have metabolisms that don’t handle food well naturally.

        If you need any power equipment or lawn advice, feel free to ask, I spent 25 years running a small business doing it for others.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I’m afraid I don’t have any information on mitochondrial disorders and weight.

          I believe our bodies have strong opinions on how fat we should be. I also believe science has yet to identify all the reasons some bodies insist on being what we consider overweight. I’ve met plenty of people who have tried everything, yet can’t lose that last 40 pounds or whatever. Maybe someday we’ll have it all figured out, but for now, the best we can do is focus on health, become as lean as our bodies will allow, and get on with what matters in life — and becoming skinny isn’t what matters in life.

  35. Pedro says:


    I’ve been a follower of yours for a while and recently heard on a podcast that you no longer are VLC so I came here to read why. Regarding being high protein, have you read Mauro Di Pasquale’s books? In particular, The Anabolic Diet or Metabolic Diet? They are marketed as high fat diets, which they are, but they are not ketogenic. The protein is usually around 30-40% calories, which depending on which phase you’re on can be over 200g+ easily. After induction, you start to play with carbs (starting at 30g) if you do not adapt at the 30g level before carbing up on a weekly basis. As an experiment I switched over to ketogenic dieting thinking I would feel the same and it’s not even close. I look flat on the ketogenic diet and more muscular as if I were eating more carbs on the higher protein anabolic diet. The only difference is that my protein intake is lower.

    Many recreational bodybuilders feel the anabolic diet to be superior to ketogenic carb loading in the long term.

    Also, while I think it’s impossible to increase in 12 lbs so quickly, do you think that you retained a lot of water plus increased in muscle mass and that’s why you went up 12 lbs? These days, I never weigh myself without using calipers to check my BF% just in case the scale begins to shift all over the place.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Naw, it was definitely a wonky scale at the gym, as one of the employees told me. I found later I could step on that scale, look at the number, then step on it again and see a shift of six or eight pounds. Don’t know why they don’t just trash the thing or get it fixed.

      I don’t count grams of carbs anymore. My diet is still mostly meat, eggs and vegetables, but I toss in a small potato or serving of squash a few times per week. I probably come in at 50 to 100 grams most days. I also eat good-sized portions of protein at every meal.

      During Q & A on the low-carb cruise, someone asked about stalling on a ketogenic diet. After the usual responses from some panel members (it may be carb creep, you may be eating more than you think, etc.), I put on my ketogenic-naysayer hat and paraphrased what I’ve heard Chris Kresser and Matt LaLonde say: in paleo times, chronic ketosis was something that happened when humans were starving. So for some people, the body interprets being in ketosis all the time as starvation and slows the metabolism to survive the famine.

      That wasn’t the answer some people wanted to hear, but Dr. Justin Marchiagiani chimed in to back me up. He said some of his patients do better on 100 carbs than zero, and he does best on 80 to 100 grams per day. Dr. Keith Runyan then added that while he treats diabetics successfully with a ketogenic diet, he doesn’t advise others to aim for chronic ketosis because he’s concerned about the protein restriction required.

      So the bottom line for me is that to stay in ketosis, I had to cut protein to around 50 grams, which clearly isn’t enough. Some of those 50 grams would be used for gluconeogeneis to provide the biologically required glucose, which doesn’t leave much to maintain muscle mass.

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