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Ketogenic: 5 Tricks to Boost Cognitive Performance AND Turn Your Body into a Fiery Furnace of Fat-Burning

So, you are looking to burn off that tricky little layer of fat that's preventing the world from witnessing your magnificently sculpted physique, ey? And let me guess, you have been slaving away on the treadmill, eating plenty of whole grains and avoiding all those pesky little fats like they told you to, right?

This is the advice that has been peddled in the fitness community for years now and chances are, you are not getting the results they promised. I would wager you are probably not feeling mentally sharp  from this system, either. I can teach you five surprisingly simple ways to optimise fat burning and show you why the fat-loss paradigms of the past the past!


Now it may have been a few years since high school, so for those of us who slept through Nutrition class- I'll give you a refresher. In order to produce energy, the human body uses a chemical called ATP in order to carry out chemical reactions and essentially, get stuff done. This ATP is derived from the energy (what we in the biz call “calories”) in the food we eat.

If you are reading this article, you probably know that not all calories are created equal and thus not all foods are equal in terms of their value to your body (even if their caloric contents are the same). However, you most likely have been told your whole life that the best source of usable energy comes from that enormous pile of sugar at the bottom of the food pyramid.

Hooooold on a second...I may have dozed off a couple times in class when they were talking about ATP production but sugar at the bottom of the food pyramid??? EVERYONE knows that it is the whole grain breads, pastas and starches down there that provide the  foundation for optimal nutrition......right?

I hate to be the one to spoil your childhood for you, but WRONG!!!

These complex carbohydrates that dominate the food pyramid are composed of what are called 

“poly-” meaning many

“-saccharides” meaning sugars

This means that a single molecule of a “complex” carbohydrate is actually composed of many tiny sugars molecules.

But wait, we are not talking about pixie sticks here. We are talking about whole grain, slow digesting, complex carbs! Let's think about how digestion works:

When a polysaccharide molecule enters the body, digestive enzymes immediately go to work breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces. First, “di-” (two) -saccharides and eventually the  “mono-” (one) -saccharide called glucose. So as you are stuffing down that dry, flavourless, multi-grain bagel, thinking you are doing yourself a favour, you are actually munching on what your intestines are about to turn into a great big handful of sugar!

Maybe that's not so bad... after all, the body can convert glucose directly into ATP for energy, right? Hooray! See, I knew you remembered SOMETHING from high school! Indeed, the body can turn glucose into energy. But here's what they didn't teach you:

While most of us reading this article (and most of us in the world for that matter) rely solely upon glucose from carbohydrates to produce energy, a second system exists...

A secret system...

A  more efficient system...

A system that not only facilitates a leaner body composition but also enhances the performance of your brain...

A system that runs solely off of............FAT???

That's right folks, you heard correctly. Energy can be produced completely independently of glucose using only fats. Well, I have plenty of those already! You're saying I can burn those for energy and stop eating these nasty whole grain bagels???

You bet you can! The system is called Ketosis. Much like how polysaccharides are broken down into simpler monosaccharides; more complex fat molecules (what we call lipids) can be broken down into tinier molecules called ketones. These ketones can not only come from stored body fat, thus getting you closer and closer to showing the world those chiselled abs you have hiding, but also provide the brain with the most optimal form of fuel for maximum cognitive performance.

Think of it as the difference between putting regular or premium gasoline into your car at the gas station. Both will get you where you need to go, but with the higher ethanol content you are going to get optimal mileage, optimal performance and your motor is going to last a lot longer. And the good news is, if you've got excess body fat, the gas is already in your car!

So how do you actually get your body to start burning these “ketones”? The short answer is that you have to teach your body that it CAN burn ketones. Most people have been running off of purely sugars for so long that their bodies' ketone-burning engines have essentially shut off. So the first and most obvious step is to CUT THE CARBS! If you continue to feed your body sugars, it will keep burning them and your fat stores are going to remain in storage. Initially, keep your carbohydrate intake to just above zero.

Alright, I'm laying off the what?

Now that you are depriving your body of the yummy sugars it has been running off of for so long, it is going to be a little confused. I know that YOU are enlightened (yes, it's OK to say that now) to the ways of the ketogenic system, but your body may not be so wise just yet...

Here are five easy tricks that will teach your body that all the stored body fat you have been carrying around for so long is actually a stockpile of  NASA-approved  rocket fuel!

Fight Fire with Fire

In exchange for those doughnut-shaped handfuls of glucose, try incorporating some healthy fats into your diet. It may seem counter-intuitive that eating fat would help burn body fat but here's how it works: as your digestive system begins to break down the fats you consume in place of the usual carbohydrates, it will slowly start to acknowledge the fact that fat can indeed be used as an energy source rather than just stored. This happens because what used to be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces was eventually burned for energy. The only difference is that you've exchanged the low-grade fuel for the super premium.

Any fat will help, but the most effective are going to be those whose molecular structure most closely resembles the ones you are trying to burn. Like we learned earlier, ketones are very short molecules; so the smaller the better. It is nearly impossible to find straight ketones in nature so your best bet is going to be what are called MCT's (medium-chain triglycerides). These are found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil or can be taken in a concentrated supplement form.

Actionable Steps:

-Reduce carbohydrate intake

-Consume whole food healthy fats throughout the day

-Supplement with MCT oil

Fight Fire with Ice

Your body may not be used to burning fat for energy but deep inside, it knows that it is not only a better energy source, but it burns at a hotter temperature! When the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for an extended period of time, it goes into an anti-hypothermic state and starts generating massive amounts of heat. This is one of the body's many natural defense systems for maintaining a stable internal body temperature or what we like to call homeostasis. So where does the energy come from to generate all this heat? That's right...body fat. The trick here is to make your body THINK that it is being exposed to frost-bite level conditions so that it initiates the fat-burning systems without any actual danger of hypothermia.

Now, I'm not saying you should go lay naked in the Himalayas (although you could) but there are a couple of ways to trick your body into thinking you did. The first and most effective method is the ice bath. You can fill up a bathtub with cold water and put in a big ten pound bag of ice from the  cooler at the gas station with that happy little penguin on it. Expect to ease into it but shoot for fifteen minutes submerged up to the tops of your shoulders (preferable on an empty stomach). Better yet, our fearless leader Kelley understands the importance of cold exposure and has a Plunge waiting for you at the studio! The temperature of the Plunge can be controlled so this is a great way to get acclimated to cold plunges if the ice bath sounds like too much right now.

Better yet, book a Hot/Cold appointment to fight with Fire & Ice!

This is not for the faint of heart, so if you are alright with sacrificing a little bit of effectiveness for some sanity, you can try the ice pack method. Simply put a frozen ice pack on either your upper back/neck area or upper chest for thirty minutes a day (or night). These areas contain the most cold-receptors and will trigger the biggest attempt to warm the body (and also help you sleep better). If you happen to live in a cold climate, take a little walk outside before you go to bed…but lose the coat!

Actionable Steps: 

-Take 15 minute ice-baths twice a week

- Use ice pack method nightly

-Take cold walks outside nightly if weather permits



Chances are, if you were previously on a carb-heavy diet, you have been told that you should eat a small meal every couple of hours to keep your metabolism constantly running at top speed. That would make sense if you wanted your body to run solely off of the food you ate. The goal here, however, is to burn body fat. Here's the squeeze: if you can manage to SQUEEEEEEZE all of your caloric intake for the day into a 2-6 hour window your body won't be able to rely on that constant supply of calories coming in for energy at regular intervals. The best time to do this is later in the day. This gives you the nutrients necessary to carry out all essential metabolic functions while you sleep and, as a side benefit, makes you REALLY appreciate your dinner. A word of caution, you might find yourself a little cranky at first if you are used to the “Six Small Meals a Day Plan'' as your metabolism is used to a nice sugar influx every few hours. However, once your body realizes that the sugar will not be there until who knows when (even though YOU do), it will have to start mining calories from the fat warehouse.

Actionable Steps

-Refrain from any calorie-containing foods or drinks during the morning/day

-Consume all calories in a 2-6 hour period (preferably in the evening)

Go Green

I'm not talking about eating your vegetables, I think you got enough of that from your mother. I am talking about Green tea! Inside every tiny cup of green tea there is a potent antioxidant called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). This lovely little chemical has a very long list of health benefits but most importantly, it has been shown to encourage your stored fat cells to commit suicide. EGCG is a chemical messenger that prematurely tells your fat cells that their time has come for the pre-programmed cell death called apoptosis. These dying cells are not only going to release a lot of energy (good for you if you are needing a bit of extra pep) but they also get your metabolic pathways accustomed to converting broken down fatty acids into energy.

Actionable Steps

-Drink 3-5 cups of green tea throughout the morning

-Avoid green tea at night as caffeine may prevent optimal sleep

-Supplement with EGCG in capsule form


HIT Hard!!!

There are a lot of different philosophies out there when it comes to exercise but if you find yourself lost in the seemingly endless sea of pontificating “fitness experts,” remember one simple fact: as in any other aspect of life, if you want results, you've got to earn them. If you are looking to use the ketogenic method to make minor changes to your physique, by all means take a nice leisurely jog. Or better yet, a nice walk through the park. But if you are serious about really transforming your body, you need to put it to maximum overdrive!

High Intensity Training (HIT) is more of a philosophy than a technique. Although it is usually only whispered in more cardio-oriented fitness circles, the underlying theme is that you have got to train hard. When doing any type of cardiovascular exercise, stick to short, full sprint-like intervals of about thirty seconds interspersed with equally short rest periods. This can be on a treadmill, track, row machine, pool, etc. What is important here are the spikes in pulse rate. This method of exercise will cause your heart to circulate blood more rapidly, your muscles to work/contract harder and your lungs to bring in more oxygen than they'd ever need from long-duration workouts. If you are hitting the weights (which I recommend you do), stick to lower rep-ranges with short rest intervals in between sets.

This method of training, compared to lower-intensity methods, is going to facilitate the highest caloric expenditure (both during training and recovery periods), the largest release of testosterone (don't worry ladies, you need this too if you're looking to burn fat) and lastly, the biggest gains in muscle mass (growing muscles are much hungrier than non-growing and therefore require a lot more calories to nourish).

Actionable Steps

-Train your cardiovascular system with equal intervals of sprint and rest

-Implement resistance training with heavy weights and short rest periods

-Take frequent DAYS OFF to let your entire body recover


Final Thoughts

Though these techniques are extremely helpful in getting one into a ketogenic state, the ultimate number one tool is YOU. It is not easy teaching an old dog new tricks and teaching your body to utilize a brand new system of energy production (even though it may be superior) is no exception to the expression. If your days of complex carbs, endless hours on the treadmill, and little to no results are no longer the tune you want to be humming, then TAKE ACTION! The solution to boosting your cognitive performance and turning your body into a fiery furnace of fat burning isn't really in the little tricks, the training, or even the diet.

The solution is in your mind.

Only YOU can reach out and grab the results you have always wanted so commit, attack, achieve, and become your own optimal version of yourself!

This article should not take the place of medical advice; please always listen to your body and the team you are working with.




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