Pete Evans

Cyclic Ketogenic Diet

Cyclic Ketogenic Diet

What if I told you there is a way to address the underlying causes of illness, simply by understanding what ingredients to eat, how to prepare them and when to eat? It’s an equation that adds up to food most definitely being medicine.

You see, by understanding where our food comes from, what ingredients, preparation and cooking techniques are best and even consciously selecting the times we choose (or choose not) to eat, it’s one of the first steps we can take to living in better health.

Of course, when it comes to the ultimate recipe for life, food is just one part of the total sum. It’s as equally important to take care of our emotional health by getting enough deep, restful sleep, exposing ourselves to sunlight, practising mindfulness and sometimes simply doing nothing at all!

We also need to consider our environment – from the air that we breathe to the quality of the water that we drink to managing our exposure to harmful electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) that come from our rampant use of technology.

You see, most common chronic diseases – such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer – all have similar root causes. They are triggered and accelerated by insulin and leptin resistance, resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction.

The mitchondria is the small subunits within cells that essentially generate our body’s energy. Optimising its function is one of the most important things we can do for our health because when it isn’t working correctly, it leads to inflammation and cellular damage.

Let’s face it, there are already enough disrupters in our external environment that mess with our mitochondria and my opinion is that we don’t need to interfere even more by making unhealthy dietary choices. It’s also why when you eat this way, you want to remove the most common inflammatory foods – which are all grains, legumes and dairy.

Instead, by choosing a healthy fat, low-carbohydrate (and adequate-protein diet) you eventually enter into a condition in which your body learns to burn fat as its primary fuel, rather than glucose.

By teaching your body to cycle in and out of this state, you stop disruptions to the all-important mitochondria.

To enjoy better sleep, enhanced brain function and protect ourselves from the on-set of chronic diseases, we need to consider adopting the highly-effective practice of a cyclic ketogenic diet.

The latest studies have confirmed that cyclical nutritional ketosis is a fundamental and effective strategy in tackling a long list of health problems with emerging scientific evidence suggesting a healthy fat, low-net-carb (net carbs are calculated as total carbohydrates minus fibre), and adequate-protein diet is ideal for most people.

This is because it keeps our hormones, insulin and leptin, balanced and operating correctly. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to keep blood sugar at the appropriate level. Meanwhile, leptin is one of our master hormones, regulating appetite.

What’s interesting is that while leptin is stored in fat cells, over time, the brain can become desensitised to leptin’s signals (a condition known as leptin resistance) and we end up eating more than we need to be healthy.

But repairing our metabolism at a cellular level doesn’t come from always eating or always minimising net carbs to solely burn fat (ketosis). In fact, new research has discovered that it’s not a good idea to be in this state long-term.

Instead, the answer is to use nutritional choices to cycle in and out – spending approximately five days in ketosis and approximate two days out of ketosis. Think of it as fasting, feasting and maintaining.

It’s also important to be aware of how much protein you’re consuming. While it is an essential building block for the body that you need, eating too much too often, stimulates an ancient metabolic signalling pathway called mTOR.

mTOR is responsible for triggering either growth or repair in the body, depending on whether it is stimulated or inhibited. Consider that cancer is pretty much unchecked growth and it’s easy to see why research shows having an upregulated mTOR pathway can increase your risk of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The other important thing to note about cancer is that all of your cells, including cancer cells, can use glucose as fuel. However, unlike your healthy cells, cancer cells do not have the metabolic flexibility to adapt to using fat as an energy source.

When your body enters a state of nutritional ketosis, pre-cancerous and cancer cells become impaired and far more susceptible to being eliminated by apoptosis, the process your body uses to eliminate disease and damaged cells.

I began following a cyclic ketogenic diet while writing my two latest books – Low Carb, Healthy Fats and the Fat For Fuel Cookbook with Dr Mercola.

While I’m a trained chef, it’s only through using this tool that I’ve really understood my relationship with food and how my body responds to it. I can’t believe how empowering that is!

By learning to cook and eat the right amount of ingredients and ones that are designed to balance, regulate and satiate, you are allowing your body to regain its metabolic flexibility.

What this means is – just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors – we can return to naturally being able to burn both glucose and fat.

In the modern-day Western world, most people have lost the ability to burn fat altogether so by moving in and out of nutritional ketosis for several months, we can again re-ignite our primal ability to burn fat for fuel. And if we can continue to have periods of doing this, it helps us enjoy better health and longevity.

So how do you do it? Start by reducing sugar, eating low-carb and filling up on healthy fats, such as avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds (if tolerated.) You’ll also want to maximise the quality of your protein and only eat a moderate amount.

For most of the week, you’ll eat this way and healthy fats (in the absence of sugar) are the key. Because not only is dietary fat fuel, it’s also a foundation of our biology.

When it comes to choosing the best healthy fats, my recommendation is to think about your oils. For cooking oils, I like to use coconut oil – which can withstand high temperatures – as well as lard, tallow, chicken and duck fat.  I also recommend olives and olive oil, only used cold in salad dressings or lightly heated and drizzled over meats, seafoods and vegetables, because it oxidises at high temperatures.

Healthy fats can also be found in organic grass-fed meats, pastured eggs and animal-based omega 3s, such as seafood, and in nuts, such as macadamias and pecans, which are high in fat but only have moderate amounts of protein. I also like to use seeds, such as black sesame, pumpkin and hemp. Raw cacao butter is also an excellent source of quality fat that can be used in baking and smoothies.

I’m not one to weigh my carbs but it is something you may like to try for a week or two until you understand what how much you need looks like to the eye. Ideally on these days, you’re looking to limit the number of net carbs to below 50 grams per day. Instead, it’s about replacing carbohydrates with high-quality, healthy fats and ensuring you get an adequate amount of quality protein.

If you can, start with a minimum of one day a week, which is then set aside to intermittently fast, meaning eating the last meal before 6pm at night and the next meal not again until 10am. Once you get into the swing of things, you can do this seven days a week so you are eating your meal/s in an eight-hour period each day.

It’s important to note that while fasting is an effective method to correct metabolic imbalances, it may not the right option for everybody.

If you are dealing with type 2 diabetes, adrenal issues, chronic renal disease, cancer, cortisol dysregulation or an eating disorder, talk with your healthcare professional before doing this and this is not recommended for babies, children, the elderly or pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

Along with eating and fasting regularly, you also get to feast for one to two days a week, consuming double or triple the amount of net carbs (up to 150 grams)

This doesn’t mean scoffing down potato chips, pizza, pasta, cookies and other starchy foods – which will simply convert to glucose and spike blood sugar levels. But it does mean enjoying a bit of kumara and other carbohydrate-rich options such as pumpkin, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, some in-season organic fruits and even paleo bread, if you choose, during these days. See my recipes for more inspiration.

Considering how you eat is also key. I encourage you to get rid of any distractions and commit to sitting down and slowly chewing your food without the interruptions of a phone, work or anything else. That’s why the dinner table is such a good place to eat.

Even when I have a pretty hectic filming schedule, I always make sure I get to kick my shoes off and eat my food outside because my mitochondria thanks me for it.

The other big piece of advice to consider when following a cyclic ketogenic diet is our changing seasons. One study has shown that the Hadza hunter-gatherer community in Tanzania used to get much of their caloric requirements from honey, during the wet summer season, but they expended a lot of energy to get it. The same applies today. If you are thinking of eating more fruits in summer, that works with the season, but consider the energy you expend first.

Most importantly, remember that this whole process of maintaining and feasting is about celebrating all the different ways you can create delicious dishes that nourish body, mind and soul.

Food isn’t just designed to deliver us nutrients, instead it’s a way we connect, commune and share our love for each other.

That’s why I reckon you can’t go past choosing to eat in a way that assists in losing weight, lowering inflammation, reducing cancer risk, increasing muscle mass, normalising appetite, lowering insulin levels, improving mental clarity and taming junk food cravings.

Don’t take my word for it, get out there and try it for yourself.


Cook with love and laughter,
Pete Evans

By Pete Evans

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