In this episode, I am speaking with Luis Villasenor – one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the low-carb ketogenic community on low-carb dieting and keto dieting combined with bodybuilding and strength training. We will talk about the best keto diet hacks for maximal results.
Luis has been so kind to offer a sample of his supplement for optimizing micronutrients. Get your sample pack of LMNT by clicking here!
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Luis and I discuss:
- What exactly is the state of ketosis?
- What is nutritional ketosis?
- Mistakes when implementing a ketogenic diet
- Ketogenic diets & muscle growth: are you compromising your gains?
- Can you eat whatever you want on keto diets and still lose fat because insulin is low?
- Why do you drop so much weight in the first few days on keto?
- Who will keto diets work for, and not work for?
- The importance of electrolytes when going on a ketogenic diet
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Ari Whitten: Hey there, this is Ari. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me today is a recent friend of mine, Luis Villaseñor. Hopefully, I said that right. I’ve never said your last name. I always read it on Facebook. I’m in Costa Rica now so hopefully, my pronunciation is on point. [chuckles]
A little bit about Luis, he has been doing ketogenic diets for nearly 20 years now. He’s regarded as one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the low-carb ketogenic community on low-carb dieting and keto dieting combined with bodybuilding and strength training. He’s pretty much regarded as the go-to guy within that community by well-known and respected insiders and thought leaders and influencers of the low-carb, paleo, keto communities as well as the general fitness community.
One of the things that I really, really like and appreciate about him is not only is he extremely knowledgeable about his realm of expertise, but he’s also very open-minded and not very dogmatic, and very flexible in his way of thinking and modifying the diet to meet people’s needs. I’m very impressed with him and his overall knowledge base and I thought it would be great to have him on the show. Welcome Luis, it’s a pleasure to connect with you in real-time and have you on the podcast.
Luis: Thank you Ari for having me as always.
What is ketosis?
Ari: First of all, let’s just do a brief general overview of what the heck is ketosis for people that are unfamiliar with it. Then, can you differentiate the different types of ketosis as far as nutritional ketosis versus, I guess, standard ketosis in people’s minds and how that’s achieved?
Luis: Yes, totally. I go a little bit against the grain, in the sense of, if you Google right now, keto, you will get probably 20 different answers depending on where you look and which link you follow. Most people understand it and even it’s medically defined or in studies as a high-fat diet. Usually, it’s a diet where 70% of your calories come from fat, about 20% from protein, and the rest from carbs, which ends up of course in-between 5%. Depending on again, the proportions of fat and protein that you ingest.
Usually, it was believed and you will find in studies that this diet per se is more so used as a diet to treat certain conditions, mostly epilepsy. This is usually what people either understand or what it’s actually written. It was funny, I was researching the other day, and the actual first recorded and studied application for a ketogenic diet was not for epilepsy but for actual fat loss.
Ari: For fat loss, really?
Luis: Yes. The actual scientist that is credited for using the word, ketogenic diet, he himself is the one that created both approaches. He started using it first for fat loss which is very similar to the Banting diet approach, which was even prevalent before the 1800s. Usually, it was known that if you wanted to lose weight, easy, just cut the sugar. Was not the carbs per se, but mostly the sugar because obesity at that time was usually a problem for rich folks. People that don’t have to work a lot with their hands, that were eating more than they should et cetera.
If we go back to certain times in human history, we were mostly in a way, working with our hands. We were not eating out of boredom or just because. We didn’t have like today, people that actually make a living by going to restaurants and trying different food sources. That’s more so something recently or relatively new. People had to work to eat what they wanted.
Again, what a ketogenic diet is, is a diet where most of your energy comes from fats rather than carbohydrates. That’s pretty much the definition that I like to use. Now, the danger that I see with these kinds of definitions is that we say one thing, either researchers, nutritionists, doctors, and people understand another. Then it becomes this broken telephone effect, where people start to gain the diet or try to use their own interpretation as to either make it more easy to do or to make more palatable stuff or keep eating in a way the same way they were eating before.
We have these well, interpretations of basically what a lot of people use or understand keto today, which is adding butter to your coffee or eating a normal food but adding butter on top or lots of oils et cetera. Which then again brings us to the other side of the equation where if you look at all the articles or either census journalists or medical reading articles of people against or studies against keto, it’s because people are precisely doing this amalgamation of things. They’re using a Standard American Diet, taking away some of the carbs, but adding a lot of butter on top.
Again, it’s a high-fat diet, but not really as a lot of people understand it. It has to be as with every diet, done properly with the actual idea behind this, “I don’t do it just because, I do it because I have a certain goal.” and taking care of not missing any important micronutrient, for example.
Ari: There’s a state of ketosis that can be achieved from just not eating. If you simply don’t eat. Then what you’re talking about here is nutritional ketosis which involves a high-fat low-carb diet. Can you just differentiate between those two things?
Luis: For sure. Nutritional ketosis as its name implies, you reach it because of certain changes that you do to your diet. Mostly it mean– a normal mixed diet would be probably 60% of your calories come from carbs and about 20% from protein and the rest from fat. What we’re doing here is taking away the carbs, so that naturally increases the proportion of energy that you take from fat. Of course, you can increase the amount of fat that you are actually eating, leave protein at about the same rate or reduce it depending on the degree of ketosis you want to achieve.
Basically what happens is once you take away the carbohydrates from the diet or reduce them to a certain point and you start adding or using the fat that you have, your body produces an alternate energy source which are called ketones. Basically, they are produced when your liver detects that it doesn’t have enough glycogen in it or there’s no available glucose in your body to use as main source of energy. It starts amping up the fat burning. A metabolite that is created from this process are ketones that are in a way a substitute for certain tissues in our body for glucose.
The benefits of being in ketosis
Ari: Got it. What are the purported benefits of being in a state of ketosis, regardless of which way it comes from? What would you say are the major reasons that somebody would pursue this diet? What benefits would they get from being in the state?
Luis: A lot of people are drawn into ketosis especially, now in fact, which is a lot of people are doing it because it’s in fashion and you see a lot of people talk about it. It’s because it’s in a way advertised as a diet where you can eat whatever you want in the sense of amounts, and not getting fat or even lose. A lot of people are attracted to “I don’t have to diet, and actually lose weight.” The reality is that, yes, it works for some people up to a point for the following reasons, in the sense again, of fat loss because there are other benefits that I’m going to talk about a little bit later.
First, yes, it does in a way have anorexigenic properties which means that it reduces hunger and cravings up to a point and depending on exactly how you do the diet. Which can be also obtained by doing other things, but again, this is one of the main benefits of doing this diet. It’s not really understood how, but higher ketone levels in your body makes you not so hungry and not so anxious about food. That’s one of the main benefits. What happens is yes, you get full faster. You don’t have hunger. You’re not really anxious about food and thus, the effect is that for most people, you end up eating less calories and so you lose a lot of weight.
Now, a lot of people are also very enamored, I’d like to say with fast approaches or fast results. When you’re doing, let’s say a normal diet, a Standard American Diet, or pretty much a higher carb diet which is I’d say prevalent everywhere in the world right now, and you start doing a low-carb diet, you lose a lot of water weight. It gives you the illusion that you’re losing five, eight, ten pounds in the first week, which is a huge boost in confidence and you keep on doing that because you see immediate results that really doesn’t happen with most other diets.
First, it acts like an illusion, but in the good sense. Again, some other people, they start to do cheat meals or things like that and then regain all of that weight they lost in the first place, because, again, it was your water weight manipulation, in a sense. The main benefit that a lot of people will experience, and I say a lot because it’s not everyone, is usually less hunger. It makes the diet very manageable for a lot of them.
Now we have other effects of maybe, more so in the sense of therapeutic or those people that are into biohacking, which are you can concentrate a little bit better, you feel more focused up to a point, less tired. Less tired, again, into a degree that for some people it even becomes anxiousness. Some people report that they are less tired, but it also becomes a problem because maybe at night they cannot go to sleep as easily because they’re overly energized or amped up. Again, there are a lot of people where that may not work very well, some others that need to probably increase a little bit more of carbs or maybe they’re not optimal for them for certain situations, et cetera.
The main benefits are mostly that. Of course, less hunger, some of them better focus. I forgot about, of course, another super important benefit is that it helps you have lower levels or stable insulin levels. Which is super important for people that may have metabolic disease or are diabetics in a way, because it helps them probably mitigate a lot of the energy issues from having a low metabolism per se, or being diabetic or having issues with blood glucose.
Ari: Let me comment on a few things you just said. One, I want to briefly state that I love the level of nuance in your thinking and I love the commitment to scientific integrity, because there’s a few things I want to point out for listeners who might not have picked up on it. One, there is this very common myth that’s out there that is actually actively perpetuated and promoted by a lot of keto gurus that conflate the water weight loss that happens within the first few days or week or two of being on a keto diet. They conflate that with weight loss. They conflate it with supplements in particular, instead of differentiating it like you just did.
The point, as you said, is we store glycogen in the muscles and in the liver, and for every gram of glycogen, we store something like 2.5 grams of water. One of the things that happens when you decrease carbs in your diet is basically the body flushes out all of that water as glycogen is depleted. You see this rapid weight loss, and so many people, millions of people, see that and they go, “Wow, this diet’s amazing. I’m losing fat like I’ve never lost it before,” but they don’t understand they’re not losing fat, they’re losing water.
The other really critically important thing that you said that I think cannot be overemphasized because there’s so many millions of people that don’t understand this accurately, is that a lot of the people in the low-carb and a keto communities for the last decade or so or more, have been promoting this idea that insulin is the factor that regulates body fat, and by decreasing carbohydrate intake and going on a low-carb keto diet, you lower the insulin levels and therefore that causes fat loss, purely based on a hormonal effect that is unrelated to the calorie intake.
What you said is basically, there is an anorexigenic effect. There’s an appetite-inhibiting effect from being in a state of ketosis that causes people to eat less calories, and it is the lower calorie intake that drives the fat loss. Please, feel free to add to that or correct in any way, if you want to add anything.
Luis: That’s totally it. It’s something that I’ve been saying pretty much since I started. I’m going to go a little bit later on my background on how and why I started dieting and why I keep doing it, but pretty much a lot of people feel that they can eat whatever they want and it doesn’t matter as long as they are in a low insulin state. I call it the parroting effect.
Someone says something in an overly simplified way to maybe get a point across, and then you have people that, again, are not bad-intentioned, but they’ve had success with the diet, but they don’t know all the little nuances behind how certain systems in our body work. They understand just a little bit or a part and they start giving a message. Then another one picks up and gives a message. Then in the end, this echo chamber, the only thing that they pick up is insulin, insulin, insulin is bad, if you keep insulin low, it’s the way to not gain weight. No, it doesn’t happen like that.
Yes, of course, probably, you have high insulin levels all the time, and this is how I explain it, and please correct me if my explanation doesn’t make sense or it’s incorrect in some places because I’m trying just to again, give a brief explanation, easy to understand without taking away maybe a lot of the nuances, but as always, the more easy you make it, maybe the message doesn’t come across as it should be factually or scientifically correct.
Insulin, in a way how I explain it is pretty much like a bouncer in a bar, in a way, or it’s like a door or a portal. It helps you get nutrients across especially to your blood cells. It helps transmit energy and nutrients. There are certain foods, because for whatever reason, let’s not talk about evolution or food in our environment, that were scarce and bring a lot of energy. Our body wants to survive. It’s a super energy-dense food that it’s not going to be available all the time. Let’s get it in and let’s use those nutrients.
Fat, in a way, or foods that don’t have a higher insulin effect, they will still get into your cells slowly but surely. Again, going back to the example of a portal, there are certain foods that make the door very big and more so, it’s not a door, it’s like a portal, in a way, and it stays open depending on the amount of food or the energy that you’re intaking at that time. While foods that may have lower insulin effect, they still open the door. The time that the door stays open depends on the amount of energy, but it’s more so a small door, but it’s still open.
If you’re eating lots of fat, probably doesn’t have a high insulinogenic effect, but the door’s still going to be open, and they are going to raise insulin, not as high maybe as you had a donut, but it’s still going to stay open, maybe even for longer because it has more calories. Makes sense?
Is the ketogenic diet a guarantee for weight loss?
Ari: Yes, absolutely. Let me ask you a question that I think will be helpful to listeners to just hear this very blunt and direct. Let’s say you’re burning 2,500 calories a day and let’s say you are on a low-carb keto diet that had virtually zero carbohydrate intake and zero things in the diet that are going to stimulate insulin to a high degree. You are eating 3,000 or 3,500 calories, would you gain or lose weight in that state?
Luis: Mostly you would gain weight if you eat more calories. Now, there’s another nuance. This is something that’s just recently started to get across, is that not all calories on paper are exactly the same on how they interact with our body. I’m in a little debate with some people on the Internet, probably we all are eventually, on exactly questions like this. “I’m eating 3,000 calories on keto and not gaining weight. I ate 2,500 or whatever on a high-carb diet and I gained weight.” It’s like, “What were you eating before? Not just the calories, versus what you’re eating now.”
If you eat, for example, highly processed food versus more whole or nutrient-dense food, if you have a higher intake of protein now versus before, even if those foods may have a little bit more calories on paper, your body has to work to metabolize them, a lot of those calories are lost in the metabolic process. For example, as you eat protein per se, especially if you take it from a whole food source, depending on how much you eat in one sitting or throughout the day, you may lose in between 15 to 20, in some cases I’ve read as much as 30% of the calories from protein may be lost as heat, versus those same calories just from fat or from sugar.
Again, when food is super processed, your body just takes it in, it’s almost negligible loss of energy. Whereas it’s not the same if you eat grains and lentils and things like that. Your body has to break them out, digest them, assimilate them, et cetera. There’s a degree of calories that are lost there. Again, it’s a trick question that a lot of people don’t understand. In the end, it’s how our body, the end product that actually uses.
Ari: Yes, absolutely.
Luis: Another thing that’s also– just to add here. The insulin sensitivity of the person, the metabolic health, also affects a little bit the thermic effect of foods. People that have a very slow metabolism or that are metabolically damage, they seem to get a very– let’s say, nil effect, example, from thermogenic effects from carbohydrates versus a very insulin-insensitive person.
An insulin-insensitive person– the classic example of these, people that are super lean and they can eat for five times a day or six and the more they eat, they even lose more weight. There are people like that because they’re burning all those calories just by trying to digest them. On the other hand, there are people that maybe just eating one time a day, but maybe having a bad diet, that’s mostly high on carbs. They are assimilating more of those calories because they’re very insulin-resistant.
Ari: Thank you for adding those two important nuances. I want to just make sure that this one point doesn’t get lost though. Is it possible to be in a state of low insulin levels where you’re, let’s say on very low-carb, keto diet, you have very low insulin levels all the time, but to be eating enough food that you still gain weight, despite [unintelligible 00:21:37]?
Luis: Of course, it is. It’s the same way people that do Carnivore or do fasting, because I see people going, “I’m doing keto and I’m not losing weight or gaining.” You see a lot of responses that, “You’re eating too much protein because that increases insulin, so lower down more your protein, add more fat, and maybe try fasting.” You’re also fasting, adding more fat calories, eating less protein to what you’re already doing.
What happens is that okay, maybe you’re not gaining weight in some cases, but you are getting into a worst body composition. You end up losing muscle. Then again, over time you ended up gaining weight even more because you have less muscle. You’re maybe staying about the same weight, but body fat-wise, your body fat is increasing and your muscle is reverting or you’re losing muscle.
The biggest mistakes people make when going on the ketogenic diet
Ari: Having said all of that, what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes that people make when going on a keto or low carb diet?
Luis: First, is eating more processed food or in a way, trying to gain the system by just focusing on the macros and mostly on the fat. There are a lot of people that think that keto is just, “Don’t eat carbs.”, so they do this approach that I usually called lazy keto, which means just count carbs and don’t count anything else. That can work up to a point if you’re in a way sensitive to your appetite.
Sadly, what happens to a lot of people that worry about weight and I’m including myself here, is that we have lost in a way, that sensibilization to hormones, leptin, to that feeling of being full, and we have a lot of conflicting signals. We really don’t know if we’re thirsty or we’re hungry, if we’re anxious or we’re hungry and things like that, so we just end up switching one food for the other.
What I like to tell our clients is, it’s about changing habits, not just ingredients, because they end up in– let’s say that before they had that Reese’s Pieces, and now they have the same Reese’s Pieces, but it’s a fat bump. They took the sugar away, but they add even more calories to it by adding extra fat and maybe you’ve had a little bit of protein, they take it away.
Or for real, I see a lot of people because they’re stuck in these “Eat all the fat or add more fat.” We all know the classic bulletproof coffee example. I’ve seen people actually put half a stick of butter into coffee and that’s what they’re drinking because they think that they need more fat because one of the sayings is, “Eat fat to burn fat.” It doesn’t work like that.
At the beginning, some people may help do the transition so they’re not really hungry, and again because they increased ketos and those have the anorexigenic properties, but it doesn’t mean that you actually need to eat more fat.
Ari: It’s a great point. Which brings up this semantic problem with the phrase, burn fat. This relates to the last thing you were talking about a minute ago with the idea that it’s possible to be on a low-carb diet where insulin levels are low and you are burning fat, your cells are using fat for fuel, and yet you can still be gaining body fat. Can you just spell that out for people? The distinction between burning fat versus actually losing body fat.
Luis: Yes, totally. I think I’ve got a very easy way to understand or to explain it, is our bodies in a way are like a Tesla. In the sense that we can use electricity for– just putting an example and gas. Let’s say that gas are your carbs and then electricity are the ketos and the fat. The purpose of keto is that you want to empty your battery, your electricity tank because it’s full of fat or electricity.
Our purpose is we carry an excess of it. We want to empty the cells. Perfect. Normally our body uses both the gas and the electricity. I’m going to empty first the gas tank or the carbs tank to a point so that my body can use more efficiently or primarily, the electricity also known as the fat tank, but what happens if every five kilometers I go and recharge the fat tank or the electricity tank? I’m going to be burning fat of course, or electricity going by this example, but I keep filling it in, so there’s no way I’m going to empty it ever, ever.
Ari: Good stuff. Where do I want to go from here? There’s a few topics I want to touch on. Before we get there, I want to just talk on potential side effects or harms that sometimes people can experience with keto diets. There’s two things I want your comments on. One is there’s this classic case I’ve seen many, many, many times of a typically middle-aged woman who goes keto, experiences wonderful benefits for a month, three months, six months, and then feels terrible, like feels the worst they’ve ever felt in their life.
Then they maybe even think, “It’s the few remaining carbs in my diet, it’s because I’m eating 60 grams of carbs per day instead of 20, so I’m going to lower carbs even more.” Then they go more extreme and they end up just feeling really bad, having chronic fatigue, having a number of other side effects, hormonal issues, losing their period, and things like that. I want to get your comments on that.
Then there’s also this issue of, partially unrelated being, there are some people who go keto, who go on a low-carb, high-fat diet, and then their cholesterol numbers and triglycerides are just off the charts and their doctor’s like, “You’ve got to get off this diet.” Even seen examples of like, you were talking about bulletproof coffee, people just adding butter to their coffee and cholesterol numbers, triglyceride numbers, just looking horrific after a month of doing that. I would love for you to just comment on those two things and feel free to address them in whatever order, however you want.
Luis: Yes, for sure. On the problem with feeling bad on the diet for a while. I think we’re touching it at the beginning, there are correct ways to do a diet, and there are bad ways to do a diet. The version of keto diet I propose is more so, like, I choose your own adventure with search and caveats. This means I propose a diet that it’s very high in micronutrients.
A lot of the people that are against keto, especially doctors and nutritionists, their usual comment is, you should not be doing a diet which takes away a whole micronutrient. If you ask them why? What’s the reasoning behind of this? It’s because that’s where you’re going to get most of your vitamins and minerals.
Then if we look at that explanation and that’s the main reason they’re against, a well-formulated ketogenic diet should not have any deficiency. How I teach people to do a ketogenic diet is in most cases, they end up eating more vegetables and fruits that they were eating before. It’s focusing on certain micronutrients that may be missing. The issue is that a lot of people don’t track and they don’t want to track on a ketogenic diet.
I suggest for a few– well, at least weeks or even months, let’s track. Just so that you are aware of which foods are optimal for you in certain issues. That you are not really eating sticks of butter and just meat, but rather, “Okay, let’s have eggs, sardines, maybe walnut, some low-carb fruits, like you can have berries, cantaloupe, et cetera, and in certain occasions, lots of greens; zucchini, chayote, et cetera. There are a lot of food. Usually, they say, “You need vitamin C.” I can give you probably 20 or 25 different sources of low-carb vegetables that are higher on vitamin C than just some fruits. It’s just what we think first, or potassium or magnesium.
Again, it’s mostly, what I’ve seen, deficiencies in certain micronutrients because the people tend to oversimplify the diet and just eating– or keto foods that are pre-made or things that are not very nutrient-dense. A lot of cheese, yes, probably you’re not going to get issues with calcium on keto but you’re overeating on fats and yes, the outside of probably vitamin D, there may be some key nutrients that you may not be getting if you’re just eating cheese and butter on a diet, so it’s not.
How I try to explain people is, “Forget about ketones and let’s eat or get away with as much vegetables as we can on your diet, rather than going to 15 or 20 or 10 grams of total carbs.” Most of my clients depending on their context, yes, we may start at 20 net carbs which in reality, may be 50 or 60 depending on which food sources we eat. Eventually, I try to increase them to 60, 80, 100 or more, once they are more metabolically flexible and their body has adapted to or does well with the certain amount of carbs. That’s one issue.
Talking about cholesterol, we work with– My company is not just a coaching company. We also have clinical labs and we do online clinic. We do look at a little bit of everything. One of the things we work with Dr. Guillermo which you’re fairly familiar with, we don’t like that people have super high levels of cholesterol. This is something that has been diminished a lot on certain local communities. It’s like chasing the new high score. “I’m having 600 total cholesterol.” “Yes, I’m better than you.” No.
Yes, cholesterol is not bad per se. Probably we have a little bit of a bad interpretation from the ’80s to now on certain types of cholesterol and certain conditions. It doesn’t also mean that you have to have it as high as possible. There’s ranges. Every time that I see someone with a higher cholesterol of 250, I want to go and see exactly how their diet is because yes, you will have probably higher cholesterol than some people if you do keto diet correctly, but your ratios, your HDL, triglycerides, et cetera, usually are, in most cases, better than optimal versus someone that does a more traditional diet.
Just for reference, usually, you need to have a ratio of one or less than two on most markers. People that follow our approach end up there, but also end up with 220, 230 at most, total cholesterol. What’s the main reason or the main difference? We’re not over-eating on saturated fat. Even if it’s not all bad, it’s not the same having three eggs a day and maybe some meat et cetera than again, all the butter and all the cheese, et cetera. Let’s add a little bit off olive oil and, again, to a point. You should not be eating 200 grams of fat unless you’re probably a CrossFit athlete that eats three to five hours a day and you actually require that amount of calories.
If you’re a soccer mom that maybe does three or four sessions of strength training or whatever per week, but you’re mostly doing housework or maybe you work on a computer, clerical work, whatever, you also don’t need that much energy, because the energy is fat, let’s just tamper it down. Maybe it’s better to add a little bit more carbs, et cetera, rather than just adding fat for the sake of being on a ketogenic diet.
Ari: Excellent. From here, I would love to go to– Actually, I now remember what I was going to ask you. Given what you just said about having a very micronutrient-rich diet, lots of plant foods, I’m curious to hear what you think of another very low-carb diet which is the Carnivore Diet.
Luis: Again, I mean, no offense to a lot of followers because I know that a lot of people are very passionate about these diets, more so because these are the only diets where they’ve gotten results. I understand them because I was there once. You probably battled with weight in one way or another your whole life. This is maybe the only diet that has worked for you. I see that a lot of people started with keto, it worked up to a point. Then maybe they did fasting, it worked up to a point. Now, they’re doing Carnivore, and it works up to a point.
What I see about Carnivore is that it’s an over extremist version. Now, you’re really taking away a lot of the micronutrients. Yes, as with everything, you can probably do it correctly for a while, if you eat, how do they say? Nose to tail. You have to eat the whole animal. It’s not about eating just beef or chicken thighs. No, you have to eat the bones, you have to eat the organs, you have to eat everything because that’s where you get all the missing micronutrients and minerals that you obtain from animals.
A lot of people are doing it in a very, “I’m doing Carnivore, but like want to”. You’re not getting the innards, you’re not getting liver, you’re not getting heart, et cetera because they’re like, “Ugh, that food. No, I don’t like it.” Yes, you’re not going to have issues maybe for the first five, three, whatever months, but then eventually, it’s the same thing that happens to people that are just vegan. At first, maybe because they switch from a diet that was not optimal, they are doing an improvement, they feel great for whatever time, years even, but then once some deficiency start to kick in, mostly, for example, in the case of veganism with B vitamins in the liver, the same can happen with Carnivore.
I’ve seen a lot of people that had great results with it. I’m not by all means against it, but I do think that it has to be done properly with a good context on understanding of why, when, how, maybe doing some diet breaks for certain occasions. Again, it’s just taking care of not missing certain micronutrients. In the end, I see it more as a therapeutic approach to treat certain gut issues. This is where I’ve seen most success, with people that have either IBS or even eczema, things like that. Okay, try it. See if this improves. If it’s something that you want to maintain for a long period of time and maybe later on, re-introduce some other types of foods.
I don’t really buy into this belief that plants are trying to actually kill us like they tend to say. Of course, if you go by that line of thinking, plants are trying to kill you, that’s why they develop whatever phytic acid and all that stuff. Well, the same you can say about a bull. The bull also wants to kill you. It doesn’t want to be eating. I find it a little bit moving the goalpost depending on who you ask and what they want to say or reason with.
Ari: Yes, I agree completely. I think that’s an excellent summary of it. I recently encountered someone arguing with the logic, “Plants don’t want to be eaten.” Clearly, they don’t want to be eaten. I’m like, “Wait, do you think-
Luis: Nothing wants to be eaten.
Ari: -a cow or a pig wants to be eaten?” If anything doesn’t want to be eaten, it’s the thing that can feel a lot more suffering and is actively running away from you when you’re trying to kill it.
Ari: Some of the logic that people use in these instances blows my mind.
Luis: When you actually go and put it that way, especially if you’re actually talking to them, you can see their brain go tick, tick, tick. “I hadn’t thought of it.” Again, I come from that space in a way. I emotionally call the anti-ketoer in a way. I don’t know if you know my story, but I founded that the KETOGAIN sub almost, what? 18 years ago on Reddit, mostly because I was banished from the main keto channel-
Ari: In the [unintelligible 00:39:06]
Luis: -by being the false prophet. By the saying to people, “Nothing happens if you eat–” My beef was specially adding more protein to their diet because I came from a bodybuilding background. It’s like, “Okay, I understand and I can tell you guys how to build muscle with little carbs or using carbs strategically around training, and you will still be getting the benefits of ketosis. Nothing happens if instead of eating 20 grams, you have 40 while you’re training.” and then so on and so on.
I’ve always been a big proponent of eating more protein. It’s not just shakes. Actual protein, because it’s a building block of our body. If you’re not going to have carbs which actually gives you the energy, you need a little bit more protein because it’s also going to be, in a way, not that it turns into glucose like that, but your body will take a little bit of that protein for other purposes.[00:40:00]
We need more, not less like people tend to think. He was like, “Yes, you know what? Take your religion and create another place.” Very much like I was banished from Keto land and that’s one of the reasons why I created my own approach.
Ari: Excellent. Well, I want to say again, I just really appreciate how much of a free thinker you are and how much you’re willing to challenge a lot of entrenched dogmas and ways of thinking within the group of people who are also advocating for keto and low-carb diets. I really appreciate that, and quite frankly, that’s why you’re on this show because that’s why I don’t have most of those people on, is because I see that they’re overtly misrepresenting science on so many things. They’re in this belief system, and they just ignore all this evidence that conflicts with their belief system. I just really appreciate how you’ve incorporated that and you’re super honest and high integrity about aligning yourself with whatever the evidence says, no matter what it says, rather than saying, “I believe this, I don’t care what the evidence says, because I believe this.” Those are the kind of people I would like to bring on the show
Luis: I appreciate it, and I’m more so very much what you said on that belief system. I understand, for example, because I’ve always had people say, “On keto, you would build more muscle or be stronger, etc.” I’m not doing these more so for being the strongest or the fittest. For me, it’s very much a diet that I can sustain and that I like, especially the food that I’m eating. If I have a new client and that client, basically, his favorite food is rice and pasta. Unless it’s a thing that’s giving him harm, I’m not going to take that food away from him, because he’s not going to find the diet enjoyable, right? It’s not something that’s going to work for him. “Okay, let’s see what we can work with.”
The same happens with people come with me and it’s like, “Now you’re going to have to do keto?” “No, it doesn’t work like that. Maybe we’re going to have to reduce carbs as a way to reduce calories, but mostly sugar-laden carbs, but I’m not going to take zucchini and spinach and other things away from you and even some fruit because they are, again, very much the best source of certain foods, certain minerals and vitamins. It would be either first, unethical, and stupid, second.
The importance of electrolytes
Ari: Yes, absolutely. Luis, you have a supplement called LMNT, L-M-N-T. You talk a lot about electrolytes and the importance of them. Tell me about that, tell the listeners about why you emphasize electrolytes so much, and what are the benefits of it? What should be consumed and when should it be consumed?
Luis: Totally. Well, it’s a funny story, because one of the main reasons that we see people advocate against keto, or if you try to diet, you feel horrible, and you leave the diet, it’s you start the diet and you feel in some cases, lethargy, headaches, you pee like a racehorse, you go to the gym, you’d have stamina, you have performance, you feel that your muscles go like jelly, or you lose size, et cetera. You don’t know about the diet and all the little nuances. You come usually with this mindset that you are– for example, people that are naysayers when they come from a bodybuilding perspective, they just want to try the diet to prove that diet is wrong.
They already come with these preset of ideas. They go and start training like they used to. They feel like shit, their muscles feel, again, deflated, et cetera, et cetera. So, they go, “I lost muscles. I lost energy because I lost muscles. I don’t have energy. I cannot train, the diet is shit, you cannot build muscle on keto.” What’s really happening is, yes, your muscles may look smaller because you lost water and glycogen. That’s normal. It’s just like inflating or deflating a balloon. You really didn’t lose strength, you just lost that glycogen. That’s one thing.
The second is you’re peeing like a racehorse, so you’re dehydrated. You are peeing away a lot of electrolytes and as you know, electrolytes are not just for hydration, like probably a lot of people understand. They actually have a purpose in the creation of energy in our body, especially when we’re training, mostly calcium, but sodium and potassium creating in tandem what is known as a sodium-potassium pump. It’s a way of getting energy into the cells. As we’re sweating, either because it’s hot, or you’re training more profusely, whatever, we’re losing a lot of them, especially at the beginning of the diet, because this diet is in a way diuretic.
Again, for a matter of reasons you lose more electrolytes than usual. In a way, in the sense of training, you need to increase electrolytes. Now, in the sense of how you feel, like you have headaches, do you feel lethargy, you also may have diarrhea and some people, again, the answer, and it looks like a joke answer, 90% I’d say of the issues that a lot of people have when trying the diet during the first weeks are related to electrolytes. What we started doing with our clients like eight years ago was, “Okay, here’s your version of the ketorade, make it.” Grab some sparkling water or water you like, add a little bit of lime for flavor or cucumber, add magnesium, add sodium, any sodium you like, it’s not just table salt, but maybe Himalayan, sea salt, whatever kind of good quality salt you like.
Potassium, also add like low salt, which is [unintelligible 00:45:53] salt, or salt that maybe it’s used for diabetics, which is higher in sodium and lower on sorry– higher in potassium and lower in sodium. People started making this beverage, and it works very well as long as you use it. You have to remember to be drinking it throughout the day, because it’s not something that you just shut, yes, you can shut it, but you have to shut it probably every two hours. If you do it, perfect. If you don’t, that’s when you start to feel the downsides of the diet, and so it becomes like another job for a lot of people, especially finding the proportions because it’s not just adding salt and powder to it. Actually, there’s some proportions of how much sodium along with potassium you need to probably use in tandem so that you feel actually well.
For a lot of people, again, it was another layer of work. I was just chatting with my business partner, Tyler Cartwright, we’re like, “If there was actually a good supplement out there with the right proportions in an easy and convenient way to take maybe to the gym or whatever, I think would be great.” We didn’t find anything in the market that actually met those requirements. Just for reference, the closest thing maybe, at the time was like a Gatorade or some of those energy gels that runners use, but they were all super high in carbs. The ones that were lower in sugar, they didn’t have the right proportions.
You have to take like probably five of them. What happens if you take five Gatorades? Even though they’re like Gatorade’s zero, you’re adding probably 2 liters of water and in 15 minutes, you go and pee it out.
It actually makes it worse. To make the long story short, we were chatting and became very friendly with Robb Wolf at the time. Actually, Robb came to Mexico for vacation and he invited me to stay over. I was like,” Robb, do you know someone in this space in the States that would probably be interested in making a beverage like this?” He was like, “I actually know a few guys. Let’s talk this over and see if we can join and create this beverage,” because funnily enough, I had done a podcast with Robb at about that time as well.
He had started dabbling into keto and then he had stopped doing keto because he could not keep correctly with his Jiu-jitsu sessions. He was starting Jiu-jitsu at the time. And as you know, jujitsu is super intensive, both in hydration, but also in carbs, because it’s a very explosive sport. You need lots of intensive energy at a given time, so keto wasn’t working for him. Apart from adding carbs, peri-training, which is a protocol that’s called targeted keto diet, which is something that that I use myself a lot. It’s like, “How are your electrolytes, Robb?” And if you’re like, “Well, I use probably salt here and there.” “No, let’s add one or two grams of sodium before your training sessions and see what happens.”
He calls me and he’s like, “You were right. It’s something so evident, and I just didn’t give it due importance. This is magical, let’s make this happen.” That’s very much how the LMNT was born, out of something that was evident, but no one was really using the actual formula that we require. People started liking it and it has grown enormously in just about two years.
Ari: I have one more question for you, and then I want to ask you to, maybe we’ll wrap up with your top three keto tips. What was I going to ask? Now, I’m spacing on it. Hold on one second. We’ll edit it out.
Luis: Maybe you need a little bit of electrolytes.
Ari: [laughs] I was going to ask you, who do you think the keto diet is for? What kind of person doing what activity or not doing certain activities do you think this diet is ideal for, and who do you think it is not for?
Luis: I don’t really like the actual term ‘keto’. Let’s say more so a reduction in carbohydrates or make a change of the type of carbohydrates that you’re ingesting. I think that for almost everybody that wants to improve their body composition and their strength to weight ratio, lowering carbohydrates can be a good alternative or something that you should try, even if it’s, for example, a high-end athlete, maybe in off-season. I’ve seen great results with some clients who train for powerlifting or CrossFit. Mostly for powerlifting, where they are struggling between some weight classes, and also with some Jiu-Jitsu here in Mexico.
Instead of you increasing weight to go to the next class, let’s decrease your weight because you’re carrying maybe a lot of fluff weight and improve your strength to weight ratio. That’s one thing. Again, for most people in this day and age, especially what I call ‘weekend warriors’, I’d suggest maybe a lower carb approach that dabbles more into paleo. How much do you want to go or how low do you want to go on carbs really depends on two things. Your real activity levels and your preferences. Also, if you have a lot of weight to lose, let’s say, more than 20 pounds, I’d suggest that maybe we try higher protein, lower carb but also lower fat approach.
Why do I suggest this? Because I prefer that people feel overly full with food that actually serves a purpose, which can be protein. It takes away a lot of the anxiety of eating and not eating, et cetera. It makes a diet very easy to follow and sustain. Yes, it makes it also very boring. That’s one caveat. Again, instead of just going full keto, I’d rather suggest a reduction of carbohydrates and make those carbohydrates come from actual whole foods. Not just, “Don’t eat carbs”. It’s rather, “Let’s avoid or save them for very special occasions,” when I’m talking about a doughnut or a piece of pie or things like that. It should be not an everyday thing.
Luis: That’s one thing. The other question was–?
Ari: Who is it for? Who is it not for?
Luis: I think it’s very much that answers that. The main thing that I always say to people, I think I’ve touched it before, what do you like to eat? If you love to eat meat and vegetables, salads, eggs, this diet is probably going to be for you one way or another. If you are someone that’s really more into eating a lot of carbs in the sense of pasta, rice, et cetera, let’s try it, if you haven’t, to see if this is something that you think that you can endure. Maybe for a while, maybe you actually like it and want to stay on this for a longer time. Depending, again, if you’re highly motivated and you think that you can sustain this and you actually like this way of eating, probably, it’s going to be very easy for you to follow.
Now, medically, there are indeed certain conditions where it may not be the best diet. Do you have a high degree of diabetes and under medical supervision? I do think it’s a very interesting diet to try because you’re actually reducing the carbohydrates. The issue with people that are insulin resistant is actually managing glucose. If we take away a lot of the glucose, it’s going to probably drastically improve your lifestyle. It’s, again, something that in the case of you’re being treated with a medical doctor, I’d suggest we check with your doctor.
Some other conditions like maybe a full-blown hypothyroidism or some heart conditions, mostly, I’m usually a little bit worried about certain higher heart conditions, because if you don’t manage electrolytes properly, what happens is that some people get heart palpitations or things like that. They get a little bit scared. It’s not like you’re going to get a foaming and heart attack. Unless you’re being coached and you’re being coached by someone that actually knows how to navigate through these issues, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, I’d rather suggest let’s go more so low carb and not really go full-blown keto.
Ari: Excellent. Okay, Luis, I want to get your top three tips for everyone who is interested in trying or who is already trying a keto or low-carb diet.
Luis: For sure. The first one would be to stay on top of electrolytes, and mentioning that, if you guys want to try LMNT, we have a sample pack where you just pay for shipping. I’ll give the link to Ari. Anyone that wants to try them, it’s just as easy as that. I’m also going to share–
Ari: We’ll put this on theenergyblueprint.com/keto, K-E-T-O. theenergyblueprint.com/keto and that’ll be the podcast page for this episode and the link for people to get the free sample pack will be there.
Luis: Perfect. That’s one thing. The second is to not underestimate protein. Protein is not really going to make you gain weight as we normally think. You don’t have to sacrifice protein. It’s best to just lower fat a little bit or lower carbs, depending on where you are currently. Don’t go either zero carbs, but really don’t go low in protein. It’s basically the building block of our body. It increases in importance even so the more we age. I remember you talk about that in The Energy Blueprint, so it’s super important.
The last one would be, “Let’s change our understanding on what keto is”. Keto doesn’t mean eat all the fat. You can enter and maintain ketosis just by reducing to a point your carbohydrate intake. What’s your point or what’s your sweet spot, that changes depending on a lot of conditions. Some active people, some lean people, people that train a lot can get away with more carbs. The more healthy you become doing exercise, changing your diet preferences, et cetera, the more carbs you can probably get away with, but again, it’s something that you try out slowly. You don’t have to go zero carbs and you certainly don’t have to go 100% on fat.
Don’t do that mistake that I did when I started the diet, which is eating low protein, avoiding carbs just because they are carbs, and going full fat. Don’t do that.
Ari: Excellent. Luis, I have to say you are officially my favorite low-carb keto guy of anybody out there.
Luis: [unintelligible 00:59:30].
Ari: No doubt about it. I absolutely love this episode. I love the level of honesty, integrity, commitment to the evidence that you bring to the table, and the level of just overall knowledge and understanding of the body of science in this area. You’re a stud. I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom about all things keto and low carb. This was awesome stuff. If somebody is interested in following your work, I don’t know, implementing your version of the keto diet or how you recommend it, or working with you, I don’t even know what services or programs you offer in that regard, but feel free to let people know where they can find them.
Luis: Everything that you guys see on the net, there is Ketogains [unintelligible 01:00:20] . What we do is coaching from either enterprises to families to individuals. It also depends on, “I just want to lose fat,” to, “I want to gain performance or mental health.” We do a little bit of everything in between.
Ari: Awesome. Where can people reach out to you?
Luis: In ketogains.com, or, if you go, for example, on Instagram, Twitter, etc, just look for Ketogains.
Ari: For people who are not hearing that, this is like bodybuilding speak. If you’re not familiar with the bodybuilding world, it’s Ketogains, G-A-I-N-S, right? S, or Z?
Ari: [chuckles] Some people like to spell it with a Z. Luis, this has been a blast. For everybody listening, again, you can get the free sample pack of LMNT, the electrolyte supplement that Luis’s company makes. You can get it at theenergyblueprint.com/keto. Luis, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I get the feeling you have a lot more knowledge and wisdom to share. I think we probably will be doing a part two and part three in the future. Let me know when you can come back on the show and have some more good stuff to talk about.
Luis: For sure. Amazing. Thank you, Ari.
Ari: Pleasure, my friend. Talk to you soon.
What is ketosis? (03:42)
The benefits of being in ketosis (09:44)
Is the ketogenic diet a guarantee for weight loss? (19:37)
The biggest mistakes people make when going on the ketogenic diet (24:32)
The importance of electrolytes (44:28)