#151: The Ketogenic Diet, Weight Loss & Muscle Building – Updated Science

by Mike Mutzel


Listen to the Audio MP3


Mike Mutzel Podcast High Intensity Health


Books Discussed in this Podcast

Belly Fat Effect: The Real Secret About How Your Diet, Intestinal Health, and Gut Bacteria Help You Burn Fat

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance

Interview Show Notes

02:19 Benefits of Blood Ketones: Beta-hydroxybutyrate, the main ketone body, effects many signaling pathways throughout your body. Being in a state of nutritional ketosis is not just about the benefits of low blood glucose and low blood insulin levels. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a fatty acid-like metabolite that is produced when you have a low carb high fat diet. It changes the way our genes are expressed.  It induces histone deacetylase inhibitors, which is now the focus of much cancer research.  They make DNA more compact and tight, which protects DNA from oxidative and free radical damage, which is linked to cancer and ageing.

04:02 Ketones and Athletic Performance: Your metabolic engine is far more efficient when you are in ketosis, so there is less damage to tissues and recovery is faster.

04:44 Calories In/Calories Out: When you are in a state of nutritional ketosis, you do not need to snack to support athletic performance. Athletes in ketosis eat only once or twice a day. Your body becomes so much more efficient at extracting calories. In nutritional ketosis, there is not a great deal of burning calories to make heat. Instead calories are burned to make cellular energy. Thus, you do not need as much food. Increased blood leucine levels and muscle protein synthesis make lean muscle more efficient.

06:29 Calorie Restriction and Muscle Loss: Calorie restriction is linked to longevity and reduce incidence of cancer. On a high carb diet, you burn through glucose quickly and you are hungry again in short order. In ketosis satiety mechanisms are being well regulated and you can go much longer without food. People think that when you restrict calories or do intermittent or prolonged fasting, you lose muscle. Fasting allows your bowel a little break. Feast/famine makes evolutionary sense due to the lack of refrigeration and preservation of foods. Research shows that people who restrict calories have increased telomeres, the protective caps on chromosomes. This is associated with longevity. It is not logical that your body would burn muscle during short term fasting when there is other fuel. Our ancestors would be weakened and less likely to procure more food. Long term fasting, however, would catabolize muscle for cellular energy once fat was consumed.

11:02 Pre and Post Exercise Nutrition: We have been taught to drink our protein shakes, but it is time to rethink this. Mike will still supplement with branch chain amino acids. Leucine increases muscle synthesis and will not drop you out of ketosis. Whey protein assists in making glutathione.

13:03 Post Exercise Blood Glucose and Blood Ketones: When you are going all out in your cardio, you cannot utilize ketones to make cellular energy in the form of ATP utilizing oxygen.  Nutritional ketosis utilizes oxygen to break down the ketone bodies to make acetyl-CoA and push it through the mitochondria. It is very efficient. Glycolysis that fuels all out cardio splits sugar makes pyruvate and lactic acid and a small amount of ATP. There is a lot of metabolic waste. Your body raises blood glucose, adapting to the activity. It is a primal fight/flight adaptation. Blood sugar levels should recede within about 60 minutes. Consuming carbohydrates within this window because it will heighten blood sugar and insulin and then crash.

16:08 Post Workout Window: Wait about 60 minutes in the post workout window to have glucose if you had a prolonged workout and need a swift recovery. You do not need carbs if you are doing HIIT training for metabolic, antiaging, neurological and cardiovascular benefits. If you depleted your muscle glycogen, elongated sugar molecules are split to make cellular energy by way of glycolysis. The theory is that elevated blood sugars post activity is the restoration of these sugars. Even if you are in nutritional ketosis, muscle glycogen replenishment is better than that in athletes who are on a high carbohydrate diet. Eat a few blueberries. We should not forget the importance of the role of the microbiome in metabolic pathways.

19:05 Blood Glycerol: It is a direct marker of lipolysis, the freeing of fat stored in fat cells, adipocytes. In a study of keto-adapted and non-keto-adapted endurance athletes, blood glycerol was measured every 30 minutes. A high level of glycerol means that your fat cells are releasing fat, breaking up stored energy to be used as fuel. The keto-adapted athletes, burned 1.4 grams of fat per minute.  Body building diets of 4 to 6 meals per day with carbs before and after workouts does not burn the fat or increase lean muscle mass as well as a keto adapted diet.

22:22 How Lean is Too Lean? Strength training tells you how healthy your muscle is. If your strength is declining, something is going wrong. Monitor how you feel, your hormones, blood sugar, hunger cravings and energy levels. Many physicians say that when their female patients go below 20 percent body fat, hormone imbalances are common. Deanna finds that being keto-adapted has helped keep her hormones balanced and believes that much has to do with better tuned stress response from nutritional ketosis.

26:44 Blood Ketones as Messenger Molecules: Blood ketones effect epigenetic signaling and inflammatory signaling. The inflammasone, the MLRP3, is an upstream inflammatory pathway. Beta-hydroxybutyrate of the ketone body suppresses this pathway.

27:39 Ketones and Brain Health/Function: When you have high blood ketones and low blood sugar you are forcing your body to use aerobic metabolism through the mitochondria. All cells need ATP, cellular energy produced by your mitochondria. Research shows that in the brains of individuals that have mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and even ADHD/ADD, sugar is used for fuel in an anaerobic way, like what your body does during long duration intense cardio. This creates damaging acidic metabolic waste that effect cell membrane structure and impacts cellular energy production. Nutritional ketosis is much more efficient and, most importantly, ketone bodies effect signaling pathways throughout the body. Research shows that these mirror the calorie restricted metabolism, linked with increased telomere function and mitochondrial function.

30:10 Children and Nutritional Ketosis: Mike believes that children should also be in ketosis.  Our ancestors did not make different meals for kids. All parents want their child to have increased resilience, increased parasympathetic response, reduced inflammation, and reduced free radical oxidative stress, as well as increased mitochondrial density and function.  Adult diseases are now in children and prevalence is increasing. Nutritional ketosis in children is not only important for their health and mental health, but this will in turn impact the health of their children and grandchildren through the affect upon their genomes.

33:24 Carbohydrates: The carbohydrates that Mike and Deanna discuss are beyond the processed, out-of-the-box/can/bag carbs, but real food carbohydrates like vegetables. Some vegetables have more carbs than others. You can eat a ton of vegetables and still stay within the 30 to 40 grams total carbohydrate range.

33:55 Track Your Macros: You can determine how your body reacts to food initially by keeping a food diary. What gives you the best fuel? What you cannot track, you cannot improve. Everyone is different. Carbs, in the form of sweet potato, butternut squash or cluster dextrose becomes rocket fuel for the keto adapted when consumed before an anaerobic workout.

37:17 Protein for the Keto Adapted: Mike and Deanna have dramatically reduced their protein intake and retained muscle and strength. Since being keto adapted shifts metabolic pathways, science needs to catch up with what this means for the keto adapted.  There are over 140 different proteomic metabolites in the muscle that are increased when you are in a state of nutritional ketosis. Dietary recommendations are based on the carbohydrate eating, sugar burning athlete and do not apply to the keto adapted.

40:41 Inflamaging: You become more inflamed as you age. The inflammasone is the gas pedal on inflammatory processes. Multiple studies have shown that levels of inflammatory cytokines, like interleukin 1 beta, TNF alfa, interleukin 6, are decreased when you are in nutritional ketosis. Nutritional ketosis offsets sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass. When you are keto adapted, your body does not generate as many free radicals and antioxidant mechanisms are upregulated.

42:44 Cancer Prevention:  DNA damage can shut off tumor suppressor genes. We all have cancer growing within us, but our immune systems consume them before it becomes a problem. With nutritional ketosis, our cells are more protected. In autoimmunity and cancer, those immune cells and cancer cells thrive on sugar and the metabolic waste from anaerobic metabolism. It is called the Warburg Effect. This process is blocked when you are in nutritional ketosis. You can literally starve cancer cells. Research shows a correlation between cancer and mitochondrial damage. Burning sugar does not require healthy mitochondria. If you are burning ketones, you need healthy mitochondria and your body adapts to make it so. Ten percent of our body weight is mitochondria. Calorie restriction, exercise, nutritional ketosis and periodic fasting all stimulate mitochondria. The third leading cause of mortality in the world is cancer.

48:29 Saturated Fat: Mike had been anti-fat for a long time. Much microbiome research shows that high fat diets lead to an increased absorption of pro-inflammatory bacterial particulates called endotoxin. Mike has a hypothesis that this endotoxemia is short lived. When you are in nutritional ketosis, you are using fat for fuel and releasing beta-hydroxybutyrate, a powerful epigenetic anti-inflammatory compound, which may mitigate the endotoxemia. Studies to date have not been done with keto adapted participants. Polyphenolic compounds and fibers can mitigate the endotoxin absorption from butter and ghee. Consuming animal fat may have other issues when you consider that endocrine disrupting chemicals and other toxins are stored in fat tissue.

54:10 The Best Sources of Fat: Butter, avocado, coconut oil, ghee, and nuts and seeds that have been soaked.


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Join the conversation

  1. I have a type one diabetic son. Low carb but not quite ketogenic. Yet with heavy exercise he has shown ketone production. Endo says that ketones on board if long enough can create acidosis. I said these are nutritional ketones, not ketones produced by prolonged high blood sugar. Can you give some feed back on this? Is there a time that nutritional ketone production could cause problems for a Type 1 Diabetic?

    I would also love a link for information regarding high cholesterol production on a low carb high fat diet. Another touchy subject for main stream doctors.

    • Kate, my husband is Type I Diabetic and we have followed a Ketogenic Diet for 5 years. He never experiences levels of ketones over 4.0 and we have a Precision Extra ketone meter. As a matter of fact, I have gone up to 5.0 ml on the meter and I am not Type I Diabetic. Bob, my husband, has and has read and uses Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s protocol via his book, Diabetes Solution, and his Youtube channel. Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes University. You will find the answer to any question on diabetes you can imagine. Try this one for Ketoacidosis and good luck to you and your son.

    • Hi there Kate,

      I would follow, Kevin on instagram. He’s a Type 1 diabetic and has been in ketosis for years; he also does intermittent fasting as well and blogs about the journey. (Proving tips and insights.)

      Re: Cholesterol – doing a podcast on this soon. Really one needs to be looking at lipoprotein particles, not just serum lipids.

      Mark Houston and I did a detailed podcast on this a while back:


    • Ketosis and keto acidosis are two different states. Ketosis is a beneficial functional state whereas ketoacidosis is a pathological condition due to uncontrolled diabetes.

  2. I went on a low fat low carb ketogenic diet. Lost weight. Yet when I introduced any amount of carbohydrate, i.e., apple, the pounds packed on. I am obviously very carbohydrate sensitive/reactive. Any information you can provide me? Is there less of a rebound if I do low carb/high fat vs low carb/low fat?

    • Hi there Kathleen,

      I haven’t heard of that before. There’s certainly less of a rebound on LCHF. If you go low-carb, low-fat; it’s really a calorie restrictive diet–which would likely lead to weight gain and rebound.

      Were you testing ketosis via breath acetone?

  3. I have been in ketosis for the last approx 6 weeks (verified with blood ketone meter with afternoon readings of 1+ up to 3.4) Almost every afternoon I was very sick with vomitting and I felt terrible, weak, lethargic, poor energy the whole time.

    Do you know why and do you have any suggestions ? I finally gave up because I couldn’t even take care of my 2 year old and had to call my mother in the afternoons to come help and thought this is not healthy. And yet research reveals so many health benefits. I’m sure there are others like me.

    • Hi there Rachel,

      I’m not sure on that–how many meals were you eating and what was main fat source? What about starting out on a low-carb diet and ease into ketogenic over time?



  4. Thank you for this talk. I am not a scientist. Just a well read health enthusiast.
    In the circle of nutrition, we are educated enough today to know that the trans fats are the bad fats.
    However, just because the plant based fats of coconut oil etc are excellent, doesn’t mean that saturated animal fats are good for us.
    There has been good science in the past showing how bad the animal fats are, without taking in consideration that toxins settle in the fat.
    So I don’t think we have a free pass on animal fat, just because plant based saturated fats are good for us.
    Another point… when coconut oil gets to the temperature of inside the body, it melts.
    That is not true of ALL of the animal fat sitting out at a warm room temperature. It will partially melt, but not completely.
    I have seen a health professional flaunt eating animal fat. We need new scientific studies on comparing them.
    Even if they come out saying animal fat is healthy, I will have a hard time believing it. Because I just don’t think we are meant to eat animal fat.
    And I am not talking about butter, cream cheese and sour cream. I am talking about the literal fat on the animal. Any thing in moderation.
    There is also good and bad milk, Since we can’t get good raw milk, for us city dwellers, we try to substitute nut milks, and they have additives,
    Eating feels like a puppy chasing its tail. We avoid one thing, to run into another issue with the substitute.

  5. Great discussion, especially the bit about toxins stored in (animal and human) fat cells, and LPS absorption increasing then eventually decreasing providing one is in ketosis. Not what I expected to hear. This may be one possible reason I have difficulty going low enough to reach ketosis (slowly reversing autoimmunity). Thanks to both of you for diving deeper into this topic! Especially like when you say “we just don’t know” – so much out there is often presented as gospel truth, And so much learned in the past 5 years overturns prior concepts and positions. Thanks again!

  6. I wanted to stand up and cheer when I listened to this podcast! First of all, you two are a wonderful team for podcasting; I’m guessing in real life too.
    As I’ve commented before, I’m experiencing enormous relief from bipolar disorder and previously constant pain from celiac and gut damage through a ketogenic diet, but Mike, I really respect your perspectives, so your anti-fat stance had always given me some reservations. I especially love to get to hear the dynamic process whereby smart people re-examine their assumptions.
    I loved that you went through the phenomenon of transient higher blood sugars right after intense exercise. When Deanna brought it up I was explaining it, and it was good to hear you explain it so clearly too. Important information for many people.
    thanks for a great show!
    Ela (pronounced eela)

  7. Is ketosis good for most people? What if your gut is comprised or if you have the gene SNP that doesn’t allow for good fat breakdown? I have auto-immune issues-sjorgrens/SLE, celiac, hypothyroid, amenorrhea, history of SIBO and border line blood sugar markers and already lots of fecal fats in stool test. I am a very underweight, low muscle mass female and wonder if ketosis would be good in this case? Is it a good idea for women and long term? There is conflicting info- Chris KResser, Sarah Ballantyne who also dive deep into research are not advocates of ketosis beyond neurogenic diseases? Thanks for the podcast as I was wondering and appreciate your honest change in opinion. Would love to hear more!

  8. Do you have any recommendations on a good source guide to direct me as a newbie trying the keto diet. I have no health issues and I am a runner, hiker, some weight lifting so I am looking for performance and anti-aging benefits.

  9. Appears you guys have started to look at the bigger picture as to what the body is doing instead of sticking with a more reductive mind set. Next you might transgress into examining what is signaling the cellular signaling of all this biochemical analysis. Nice to see you to allow for the capabilities and functions of what the body actually does and will do for you. Expand upon that concept a bit and look into what is driving all of this. There is quite a design that runs the whole show of what we call the life process. When you get there, if you haven’t yet what do you thing you might find? Probably find a very large degree that you are not in control of what you may think you’re in control of. Just have to stick with the natural design, it has been here since the beginning and this design rules.Your not going to develop a new design or tweak it, it is constant and always has been. All we can do is support what already is, We are not in control. With out recognizing this all of these wonderful podcasts are nothing more than a game, mere child’s play when it comes to the truest-truth of being.

  10. Fantastic podcast, team. Two questions:

    1. If I react negatively to animal protein, are there any disadvantages to using Plant Protein (ie. Powders) to fuel the protein requirements?

    2. Do MTHFR mutations influence how ketosis works?

    Thank you in advance!

  11. keto and kids – i’m no expert but it’s my understanding that a known side effect of keto diets for epilepsy is growth stunting due to reduced insulin/IGF as these do have a role in growth. so caution with respect to kids and keto diets may be warranted.

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