Ketosis and Campfires

Fuel choices matter.

Fuel choices matter.

I like metaphors and analogies. They help me understand complex things. Just a simple gal, am I.

One that came to me some time ago and which I’ve referenced often in presentations and videos is the campfire. It nicely mirrors - again, in very simple terms - how and why a well-formulated ketogenic diet just works for most people so elegantly and why the protocol is fundamentally different than the poor advice we’ve been given for so long.

Those familiar with camping or utilizing the backyard fire pit or were in the Scouts know that a good fire needs fuel. Duh. Real pros know that not all fuel is created equally when it comes to sustaining an efficient, useful blaze. One can throw all manner of combustibles on the heap and get flame and heat but just because something will burn doesn’t mean it’s a good choice.

The same goes for our bodies and sources for fuel. In the simplest terms, our bodies can burn glucose (sugar) or ketones (fat). The latter is referred to as ‘ketosis’. Actually, it’s not a wholly one-or-the-other thing but is almost so. While our corporeal selves may be able to utilize sugar for our energy requirements - and those who follow the Standard American Diet which is heavy on carbohydrate and light on nutrition are doing so every minute of every day - it may not be the best choice. I dare say, it’s the worst choice for many of us.

An efficient fire needs dense fuel. Oh sure, one can burn dried leaves and pine cones and keep the flame going. But there had better be a boatload - literally - of those leaves and cones around to keep things alight. That fuel burns quickly and soon needs replenishing. Quickly as in every few minutes, so much so that one can find that stoking the fire becomes a full-time job. Better not walk away or get distracted by other responsibilities for too long lest that fire die out. Yes, dried leaves and pine cones will burn but they’re a cheap fuel. Cheap in the sense that one doesn’t get much bang for the buck for all that effort to replenish the fire.

A better choice is a nice, aged hardwood log. A couple of those on the fire and one can step away and tend to other things in life, confident that there will be heat and light for some time to come. Not cheap fuel but, rather, a valuable fuel.

Now imagine that our body, and particularly our brain, are the fire. Fuel is required to keep things functioning. We want our brain to keep the lights on, as it were. And to allow us to move, think, play, fight infection and all the unseen and behind the scenes jobs that go on every moment. And imagine we’ve been trying - in vain - to sustain that fire with the cheap, quickly dissipated fuel of dried leaves and pine cones, or, cheap food. Carbohydrate, to be specific. When we consume carbohydrates in excess of about 20g/day (a good baseline for those following the ketogenic diet) our livers produce glucose (sugar). Or, leaves and pine cones. And just as with the fire, the fast burning, cheap glucose needs to be replenished on a frequent basis.

This is why we can consume a so-called healthy meal and two hours later be roaming the halls of our offices or the mall or attacking our pantry looking for more food. It can make one feel rather… crazed.

But when one reduces carbohydrate intake to a level where the liver is no longer pumping out glucose, the body happily switches to mobilizing ketones (fat) for fuel. And we have plenty of fat on our bodies to take care of energy requirements. And our brain, satisfied with the luscious, nutrient-dense properties of the fat - or the nice, aged hardwood log - no longer needs to scream for more fuel. [BTW, please note that it’s not the consumption of fat through our food that does the trick, but the absence of carbs. Just eat the fat that comes with your choice of protein. Nature already worked out the math for us.]

And we can move on, tending to other things in life for a while.

Look at our body fat as a cord of firewood. Let’s burn that, shall we? I know I started with a big ol’ pile of logs on my ‘back forty’. Now? Not so much.

The moral of the analogy is that cheap fuel is just that: cheap. Let’s get more out of our nutrition by consuming that food which we were almost certainly designed to be. Valuable, dense, slow burning and efficient fuel.

As for an actual fire itself? I like to throw a ribeye on it. Win, win!

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor, researcher or PhD but rather a well-educated, intelligent, highly motivated former fatty. I’ve been fortunate to have had the time and resources to research the ketogenic diet, also known as LCHF (low carb/high fat). The information I share is based solely on my experience with and  understanding of that research. We are all responsible for our own choices, including what we put in our mouths and there’s no substitute for each of us checking things out ourselves. Go Keto With Casey is not a medical site. “Duh,” you might say. But best to make it clear to all. I welcome questions, comments and even civil criticism. I’m still learning. So, if you have something to add, go for it. Links in this post and all others may direct you to affiliate links, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through those links. Thanks!