Episode 3 – The Ketogenic Diet With Anthony Benedettini
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat, and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is season one, episode three of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast and I’m very privileged today to welcome my guest, Anthony Benedettini from Perfect Keto. Hi, Anthony. How are you doing today?
Anthony: I’m having the best day of my life. How about you?
Darren: Fantastic. Yeah, very good. That’s a great introduction. I love that. Anthony, before we kick off, before we talk about all things keto, for the benefit of the listeners, it’d be great to get some background on yourself.
Anthony: I am Head of Partnerships at Perfect Keto, so I’m just in charge of our relationships with other brands, our podcast strategy, and more so our event strategy. I joined last year, and I’ve been doing the ketogenic diet myself for about three years. The reason I got into it is because my grandma got diagnosed with lymphoma. I was looking into it as an alternative form of treatment for that cancer. Since then, I just kind of had to embody it to learn it and I’ve never looked back. It’s become part of my lifestyle and I hope to spread that knowledge and I hope that people can adopt this tool in whatever area of their lives that it suits them best, whether it’s cancer prevention, or weight loss, or cognitive focus, whatever it may be. I think it has a wide array of applications and I’d like to spread the knowledge just for those users.
Darren: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest things for me around keto is that for me, it’s more than just an ordinary diet. The health benefits that come with doing keto are just massive and I think we’ve only just kind of scratched the surface to really understand the health benefits. For today, what we’ll do is we’ll keep it at high level. And for the listeners who maybe have only just heard of keto or are maybe thinking about getting into keto, you’ve already touched on it there, but why should we use keto?
Anthony: There’s a couple of different reasons. I’d say, to start off with, if you want more cognitive focus, that’s what most of the people I work with do it for. It really helps prevent any energy dips throughout the day and so you’re able to stay sharp. Ketones themselves are an energy source for the brain, like glucose can be used, but sugar also has to go through a couple of extra processes before it gets to the brain. So ketones can be immediately used and cross the blood brain barrier almost instantly, which has that brain boosting effect that people talk about and that mild euphoria. I’d say number one, for me, it’s the focus.
Then number two for me is the disease prevention down the road. We see that the ketogenic diet is being used to treat things like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases. These things are basically inevitable in the United States here, later down the road and being in a ketogenic state helps reset your body’s machinery and prevent a lot of those things. For me, since I have a family history of cancer, it’s more of that disease prevention and an ultimate baseline of health.
And then three, I’d say a lot of people use it for a weight loss tool and just really an easy way to stay trim or to look your best throughout the year without it being super restrictive. People think, Oh, my gosh, I can’t eat the grains and the bread and all this, but it really opens up the doors to what you can eat and all these things that are now in abundance for vitality in terms of all the fats that you can eat, and the vegetables and the meats that we’ve been told that are going to kill us for so long. Those are the things that are honestly the building blocks for a lot of our hormones, that make us feel full of vigour and honestly prevent the health conditions down the road. Having those building blocks in set and focusing on the protein and the fats which our bodies are made of, then it really takes care of the rest.
Darren: Yeah, I think those are some good reasons. I think, for me personally, particularly now I’ve understood it. In the UK, I understand that the ketogenic diet has been huge for quite some time, specifically around epilepsy and also for diabetes as well. Not so much diabetes, but definitely around epilepsy because apparently–and I’m obviously not a medical physician or anything like this, but–the regulation of the blood sugar stops the fits that epilepsy brings on.
It’s quite an impressive kind of diet or the way to kind of eat and live if you like.
Obviously, we’re talking about keto, but for the benefits of the listeners, we’ve understood why we should use it. Without going into kind of too much real medical detail, just what is keto? We talk about ketones, we talk about thermo-ketogenesis and all the rest of it, but what is it really at a very kind of high, simplified level?
Anthony: Keto refers to ketosis and when the body is in ketosis that means it is using ketones as its primary fuel. To break it down, we can either burn sugar or we can burn ketones for fuel.
How we get to ketones is by burning fat so when we don’t have any sugar coming into the system, then the body eventually gets to a state where it says, Okay, I have no fuel, now I have to tap into fat stores, start breaking down fat and then from the fat, that’s produced ketones; so then we use ketones as an energy source. So from a very high level, it’s using a different energy source in the body than sugar.
Darren: Right. In terms of traditionally, in our diets, our bodies are adapted to use carbohydrates, convert that to sugar, and then to store as energy. How does the body change?
Because this is quite a big change and you might talk to some nutritionists who say, “No, you’re crazy not to have carbohydrates. It’s really dangerous. Your body needs carbohydrates.” How do you facilitate that change over to your body becoming what we call “fat adapted?”
Anthony: There’s a few things and I think to start off with, it’s just to make this as smooth as possible, the slow reduction of your carbohydrate intake. Say you’re eating three meals with carbohydrates a day, maybe you go down to just two meals with carbohydrates, then one meal, then zero meals. You could go all in and I think that’s the most effective way if you just want to take care of it and knock it out, but slowly reducing your carbohydrate load down to basically zero, and trying to get under 20 grams a day. Basically, all your calories are going to be coming from meat and vegetables.
Number two, making sure that you really, really focus on increasing your electrolyte intake and primarily salt. We’ve had this myth in the US going for years and years that high sodium intake leads to hypertension and all of these things, which is completely false. Sodium is the primary electrolyte in the body, so when people say, Oh, my gosh, I’m drinking a gallon a day and I still feel dehydrated. Well, if there’s no sodium keeping it there, then it’s just going to flush right out of the system. When we’re in a ketogenic state, the body expels sodium at a much higher rate than if you’re burning sugar.
When the standard dietary guidelines in the US say, Okay, we’re supposed to be eating no more than two grams a day, for a ketogenic diet, you should be eating at least a minimum of four grams a day. It’s a drastic increase of salt. Even just starting your day off with a teaspoon of salt in the morning, is going to help drastically throughout the day. When people get those cravings, those sugar cravings when they’re transitioning into the state, it’s the body telling you that it’s deprived of salt. Not that you need sugar, because the body can always survive; the body doesn’t need sugar to survive. If there was a lack of food during our evolution, it’s not like we can just open the fridge and say, oh, here, take this rice cake. Our bodies had to adapt to that “no fuel,” so our body has to tap in to its fat stores.
I’d say with that, the sodium and just reducing your carbohydrates are the two main things. And then not being afraid of fat which we’ve kind of feared for so long. Making sure you’re getting in plenty of fats; getting fattier cuts of meat which you’re not used to. That’s the best building block for hormones and testosterone, growth hormone, whatever it may be. If you’re trying to live with more energy, then your hormones are basically the foundation of that; so take care of your hormones and feed them with the fat.
Darren: That’s one of the biggest things, right? When I talk to people about trying keto and a ketogenic diet is a high fat diet, the instant reaction you get from people is, Oh, that’s bad, that’s fat. We’ve been conditioned to think that having fat is a bad thing but what people don’t understand is that there are many different types of fat. Yes, kind of hydrogenated fat, manufactured fat, is not great for you, but definitely the natural fats that occur in food are, as we’ve learned, very good for you. There’s this stigma around the fact that you shouldn’t have these fats, aren’t there?
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really messed up because what we’ve done is tell people that,
Oh, my gosh, you shouldn’t have these fats, they’re so bad, and then replaced the good fats with all these processed oils that are probably the number one driver to our chronic disease problem.
If you were to just take one step in the right direction of improving your health, it would just be to eliminate all refined sugars and all refined vegetable oils. You’d probably be 80% of the way there. Those are the things that are literally driving inflammation in your body. Any types of processed canola oil, or sunflower, vegetable oil, as soon as you consume those, and especially if you’re cooking with those and they’re exposed to heat, they oxidize, they go into the body and they are replacing your cell membranes with a more unstable form of the fat which is making now your cells basically susceptible to damage at all times.
Then with the sugar, obviously, high blood sugar leads to inflammation, it’s a stress response to the body, and now your body’s freaking out, doesn’t know what to do, and so it’s a constant state of stress and disease, and we all know that stress is probably the number one driver of disease.
Darren: Absolutely. So, we’re following the ketogenic diet, we’re having the high fats, we’ve reduced our carbs. From what I understand there is a very kind of fine line between being in the keto state and not. How do we really measure and understand whether or not we are in that ketogenic state?
Anthony: There’s a couple of ways. A lot of people find that they do urine strips. I’m not a big fan of urine strips myself because it doesn’t give you an accurate picture. Especially after the first couple of weeks, the accuracy kind of falls off there. If you’re just going start, I’d just go with the right way and test your blood. There’s plenty of blood metres on the market, the Precision Xtra is out there. In the States, we have the Keto-Mojo, and the KetoCoach now is coming off. These other metres that actually test the amount of ketone that you’re burning in the blood, and so what nutritional ketosis is defined as is having 0.5 mmol of ketones in the blood at any one point or higher.
If you think you’re doing keto and then you’re testing your blood and you’re measuring 0.1 or 0.2, and you’re like Oh I’m keto, you’re not there just yet but don’t worry, it’s going to get there once you get to that state. Then you can dial in what’s working, what’s not, seeing what foods are making you kicked out of that state and then really starting to refine. I think that just measuring ketones helps you determine if you’re in ketosis, but then also measuring blood sugar too, to see which foods you respond best to. Because ketones don’t tell the entire picture; they just tell you if you’re in ketosis and you’re doing something right. If you’re eating a food, since everyone’s different and everyone responds differently to what they put in their body, if you ate something that you are intolerant to and your blood sugar shot up 30 points, then you probably shouldn’t be having that food because your body’s just saying it’s creating a stress response around that food.
Darren: And I think one of the key things you just said there is that it kind of comes back to the thing that I keep going on about and that is “there is no one size fits all.” Everybody’s going to be slightly different, so the foods that we eat are going to react in the body in different ways and spike blood sugars, for example, in different ways, so it’s very important that people do test it. I agree with you: there’s the urine strips, there’s the breath test, and there’s the blood sampling, and you can’t get any better than sampling what’s actually in your blood, can you really?
Anthony: Yeah. That’s just the most accurate picture, there’s no correlations. There are breath metres on the market now, but we don’t have the research to say that those are accurate and we don’t really know what breath ketones mean yet. As opposed to the blood, it is BHB, which is the physical molecule of ketones, and that we know for certain can be measured in the blood, and we know that we’re burning that as an energy source.
Darren: Okay, so we now know what to do in terms of the diet to eat, we now know how we test whether we’re in a ketosis state, but what happens if we are out with family, out with friends, and we have a carbohydrate meal? What’s going to happen to us in that situation? Or is it fine to have the odd meal, or is it going to kick us out of ketosis?
Anthony: With that, if you’re doing a ketogenic diet, and this is just my number one recommendation, if you’re going to do it, just invest in your health, spend two to three months doing it without cheating, and you will transform your body’s machinery for the rest of your life.
What people don’t realize is that everything, there is a 30-day cleanse, or a 30 day this, whereas if you were to stick to something, a lot of habit studies show that it takes a body 90 days, I think, to develop a habit. That’s, I think the same way for a diet, too. It shouldn’t be this short-term thing that you do; it should be an investment in your health and look at it that way, too. So when those situations arise and now you’re at a family function and there’s the cookies and the bread out, and people are like, Oh, why are you doing that, it’s like, “I’m investing in my health for a couple of months. It’s just something that I wanted to do and I’m loving it right now and I just have to stick with it.”
I think that when you just reframe it as not just a diet, but it’s an investment. Once you make a good investment, then you’ll be good and you’ll increase your body’s ability to burn fat naturally. You don’t have to worry about these problems with insulin and high blood sugar
down the road if you’re doing that. You’ll find that when you do something, you start to see the benefits after the first 30 days. And then as you get into 60 and as you grow that momentum in the body, then it’s saying, Okay, now I’m in a healing state. Now your energy is on point, now we’re fixing all our hormone function, and that’s when the lights turn on and everything starts to kick in. But you do have to give it that time and I think a lot of people stop. Because when someone says, “Oh, I tried keto for two weeks,” well, you just really didn’t give it the chance. And if you didn’t give it the chance, then it’s not going to work long term and then you have the bad first impression so you’re unlikely to do it again.
Darren: I agree. I think one of the biggest challenges is influence from other people and people that haven’t perhaps taken the time and effort to understand what keto is instantly. It’s changed, isn’t it? It’s either high level, people don’t like change necessarily, and when somebody’s doing something that’s different to the kind of masses, instantly the reaction could be negative, of “Why are you doing that,” or “That’s a bit bad,” when they haven’t really taken the time to understand it.
I think outside influences are a big one to influence whether or not you’re consistent with it.
Then like you say, you know, with anything in life, in general, to get results, you have to be consistent with it and nothing happens overnight. Nothing happens within two weeks. I completely agree with what you said there around this “30 day this, 30 day that, 30-day cleanse.”
That’s fine but if you then stop after 30 days, you’re just going to go back and if not, worse to where you were before. Definitely, consistency is key and persistence as well. I think that’s very valuable.
If we haven’t started yet, you said earlier on around just start trying it, just slowly adapt your diet over two weeks, reduce the carbohydrates. But if we’ve got a house full of processed foods at the moment, and we’ve got a lot of grains, we’ve got a lot of bread… I know on the Perfect Keto site there’s a plan that we could follow, but what’s the kind of recommended way to start if we wanted to start, for example, today.
Anthony: I think the first thing I would do is find a recipe of a ketogenic meal that you would love to eat every day, like find your favourite foods. I’m all about meeting people where they’re at and making the transition as smooth as possible. I used to work in wine, so introducing a low alcohol Pinot Noir at 12% to someone who likes 15% Cabernet just doesn’t work. But if you find that one that’s just a step lower, maybe 13% and still a little more robust, they’re more likely to make the switch. So, I think find the food that you really love to eat. I would write down a list and basically just start food journaling.
Food journaling does not mean tracking every single macro that goes in your body. It’s just about getting an awareness of what you enjoy, what brings you pleasure, and then also just making sure we can make that transition over to the keto side of that as easy as possible. Say, you liked to eat burgers all time. Great. Well, we can definitely do burgers on keto, so all you have to do is look up keto burger recipes and then you can start having burgers just in a
ketogenic fashion every night. Burger, no bun, maybe you’re doing lettuce wraps or with the advent of keto and just the wide spread of it, now you have keto buns out there. So okay, we found a bun that’s just completely keto friendly, that’s awesome. Even that one step is a huge step in the right direction and then eventually, when you start to refine the diet, you’ll find that you won’t even need those things as much and you’ll start to just get down to the bare minimums of whole foods and what’s most nutritious to your body.
I’d say find the foods, write down all the foods that you love and then just find that ketogenic equivalent of those and start cooking those. Like you said, you might have a pantry full of all these grains; take them and donate them. Throw them out, do whatever it is, but there’s no point in having them around because if they’re in your house, then it’s almost an extra stress on you because you have to spend more willpower just avoiding those things. You have plenty of friends, plenty of family who probably are not keto, just donate to them. And you know what, that generosity would pay it forward and they’re obviously going to give back to you in the long run. I think just getting everything that’s not compliant out of your house is the biggest first step because then that just eliminates all worry of breaking down and cheating on the diet, as you say, in the future.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. I think the donation side of things is a great idea. The other thing and the other point I want to make is that when we’re talking about keto recipes, we’re not talking about these particular foods that you need to go out and buy that are maize keto and the rest of it. It’s normal, basic ingredients and it’s just understanding what type of fats are in what foods in order for you to make this keto recipe. You guys over at Perfectketo.com have some fantastic recipes and I use them regularly to make my keto meals. I actually made the keto pizzas this week, which are really, really tasty and you know that’s very simple. That was a recipe that was made in five minutes and took 15 minutes to cook, so none of this stuff is really that difficult, is it? It’s quite simple to do.
Anthony: Yeah. And people think it’s hard or difficult, but super easy. Just think about it with people if you’re having a dish with some kind of vegetable, rice and chicken and then all you’d have to do is just take the rice and maybe mash up a cauliflower and now you have cauliflower rice and that’s completely keto. Just making the small switches and just saying like, Okay, what are the grains that I’m currently eating and what are the keto alternatives to those? Cooking is pretty straightforward if you’re just going to do meat and veggies, which is basically the template of keto, and some kind of fat. Then, okay, I’m having a steak, I’m having broccoli. That’s it. It’s very simple; it makes it easy on you.
Darren: Absolutely. Before we wrap it up, Anthony, is there anything that I didn’t ask you today, which you feel that I should have asked you and would benefit our listeners?
Anthony: I think we covered a good amount and especially a lot for people to get started. For Perfect Keto, what we do is we just provide the tools that make it easy to go keto. We know that everyone doesn’t have the time to cook every single minute of the day and to make all three meals. That’s completely understandable, so we make ketone supplements, ketone food products, that all make it very easy that if you are having some of those energy dips, it’ll help you get through to those transition phases and you won’t have to suffer some of the energy and some of the other things. It will just make it very easy for you to stay keto while doing this.
That’s basically why Anthony Gustin, the founder, started this company because he found that a lot of people were dropping out and quitting keto, and that shouldn’t really be the case, especially when you have the tools necessary just to keep on and trucking through it.
Darren: Absolutely. I think, the Perfect Keto site is a great resource. I highly, highly recommend you guys go over to Perfectketo.com or www.perfectketo.com; I can’t remember. Anyway, put that into Google and you’ll find it. It is a really great resource, it’s a really easy site to use.
They’ve got some great information over there on nutrition, some really great recipes which I highly recommend.
That’s been amazing, Anthony, I really appreciate your time today. What’s the best way for people to connect with you, to connect with Perfect Keto? Is it website, social media? What’s the best way?
Anthony: Perfect Keto at Instagram is @perfectketones and I’ll go ahead and send you a link, so everything’s in the description. Me personally, I am on Instagram and that’s AnthonyIsBene, and I can also put that link in the description as well. I’m also on Facebook, feel free to reach out anytime. If you have questions, I used to coach people to do keto and like I said, I’ve been in the space for three years, so a lot of this I’ve seen, ins and outs of the industry and the struggles that people face at the beginning and even the refinement of that journey down the road.
Darren: Perfect. That’s fantastic, Anthony. Thank you very much for your time today and I look forward to catching up with you soon.
Anthony: Sounds great, Darren. It was great talking to you and I hope you have an amazing rest of your week.
Darren: Thanks, Anthony.
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