Episode 70 | Drew Manning | Your Brain On Keto
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My first conversation with Drew Manning was about his journey from fit to fat to fit. Drew actually was in killer shape, working as a personal trainer, and then gained 70 pounds in 6 months on purpose, and lost it again in 6 months…just to get a better understanding of his client’s needs. He wrote about it in his New York Times best-selling book, Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit.
In our latest conversation, Drew helps simplify the keto concept. In today’s NEW EPISODE, he explains the benefit of the keto diet, and gets practical on how to live a ketogenic lifestyle that works with a busy routine.
Here’s an excerpt from his latest book, Complete Keto…
“Do you know what it’s like for small tasks to seem larger and more complicated than they are? To feel like your brain is shut off and won’t turn on—or won’t turn off when you need it to? Have you ever felt unable to fully focus on a task, or struggled with wandering thoughts? Or the frustration of not being able to recall words and phrases, or even forgetting things from your past that you used to remember so vividly? Here’s the thing: we’ve been lied to as a society. For the past 50 years, we’ve been taught that eating fat makes you fat and that fats are bad. Remember that food pyramid from grade school? Seven to 11 servings of grains per day; eat fats sparingly. The keto diet flips that on its head. The latest research is showing that fats are actually healthy for our bodies. In fact, they are a most efficient source of energy.”
In today’s show, you’ll discover…
• What you can eat on a keto diet, and what are the benefits of the keto diet
• What are the side effects of keto…and is the diet right for you?
• Keto diet tips
• The best app to track how much protein, fat, and carbs you’re eating
• What the heck is ketosis
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Follow Along With The Transcript
Kathy Smith: Drew, welcome to the show.
Drew Manning: Kathy, thank you so much for having me on. It’s always a good time with you.
Kathy Smith: We were just chatting. You’ve been on the road. You’ve been travelling. I heard Korea, I heard Japan, I heard Nashville. But the one that caught my eye was you have a cruise you were taking for your group of people on – was it a keto cruise?
Drew Manning: Kind of. Fit2fat2fit cruise is the title of it. This is the second year of doing it. I would say about half the people were keto, but the other half wanted to have fun, which is so fun. The whole idea of the cruise is we’re going to have fun, we’re going to teach you about keto. We do daily seminars, we do yoga, we do meditation, we work out together, we eat meals together, we do the excursions together as a team. It’s so much fun. We just got back maybe a couple of weeks ago and super excited for next year’s cruise.
Kathy Smith: I was going to say I need an invite to that. It sounds great.
Drew Manning: Yes. You’re invited.
Kathy Smith: Again, in our last conversation, you talked about this journey you went on, which it’s still fascinating to hear the story. Was it the keto diet that got you back into your shape that you’re in now, which is incredible? Was that the way you lost your weight?
Drew Manning: That’s a good question. A lot of people ask me that. I did that back in 2012, and in 2012, the keto diet wasn’t as popular as it is today. So I did not do keto to lose the weight. I jumped on keto about four and a half years ago and have been doing it ever since then – on and off – not 100% of the time. So I jumped into keto after fit2fat2fit.
Kathy Smith: We’ve talked about it on the show before, but with the keto diet, you can obviously jumpstart your weight loss, cut through the brain fog – which you talk about a lot – boost your energy, relieve some of the health conditions by reducing inflammation throughout your body.
In keto lingo, you talk about food and there’s a term called macros. Can you explain macros?
Drew Manning: Yeah. Macronutrients are the big sources of our energy. Proteins, fats, and carbs are the three macronutrients that make up all of our food. When you’re doing keto, your macros need to be switched versus the traditional American diet, where most people eat high protein, high carb, low fat. That’s what we’ve been told to eat for a long period of time.
In ketosis, what you’re doing is you’re limiting glucose which is carbohydrates. So you have to limit that very significantly to maybe 5% total of your calories so that your body has switching fuel sources. So your macros – the proteins, fats, and carbs – on a ketogenic diet are totally different where most of your calories are coming from fats – about 70% – then 25% from protein and then 5% from carbohydrates.
What that does is it forces your body to produce a different fuel source other than carbohydrates. It’s producing things called ketones by eating a lot of fat, and that is why it’s called the keto diet.
Kathy Smith: For people that have been familiar with these terms and have been trying it for a while, they probably have a little bit of understanding of what you’re talking about. But for the newbie, talking about 5% carbohydrate or 70% fat is probably a difficult concept to grasp.
I know that in your book, you talk about there’s an app out there that will help track your macros. I went on and put in some information, had a few people go on the app and put in some information, but one of the things that I have to say just personally for myself is that I’m a vegetable eater. I like vegetables. I’ve already had a big green drink today, which all greens, no fruit, but all greens. And I had a big salad. And I know those are all carbohydrates. How do vegetables play into the whole keto plan?
Drew Manning: Yeah, vegetables are a perfect source of carbohydrates for our bodies because the difference between vegetables and fruits is they’re full of phytonutrients – vitamins, minerals, things like that – but very low in carbohydrates. Versus fruits – still have a lot of phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals that our body needs, but you’re getting a lot of sugar from that, which turns into glucose in the body.
On keto, you’re trying to limit that. So what I tell people is most of your carbohydrates should come from vegetables, whereas most people in America, we’re used to seven to eleven servings of grains per day. They’re food [inaudible 00:07:58]. What you’re trying to do is eliminate those high-starch foods like grains – so bread, pasta, rice, cereal. Those types of high-carb foods, you’re trying to get rid of those, and you’re getting most of your carbohydrates – 5% like we talked about – from vegetables. Things like broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, things like that, those are good on keto. You don’t have to worry too much about those.
It’s the starchier things like the fruits and the potatoes and sweet potatoes that you need to probably limit to maybe 30 grams or less per day is what I tell people.
Kathy Smith: Okay. Since I mentioned it, I probably should tell everybody the app you recommend is called My Fitness Pal. Is that correct?
Drew Manning: Yes, it’s a free app. Everyone can download it. All you do is just enter your food into the app and, boom, it tells you how many grams of protein or how many grams of fat or how many grams of carbohydrates are in an avocado or one cup of broccoli or a piece of salmon. It will break up the macronutrients for you so that you don’t have to do any of the math.
Kathy Smith: When it comes to the macros, you mentioned 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carb. I think all of us, when we see that 70% fat – even myself who understands the importance of fat – you’re going, “Oh no!” So I think we should maybe address that a bit and also understanding that fat is still calorically dense. So what are some of the mistakes that people make – or I’ve seen the mistakes that I’ve made as far as the number of nuts or perhaps when cooking, how much cooking oil you’re using or whatever. How do you prevent overdoing the fat even though the fat is good?
Drew Manning: That’s a great question. Here’s the thing. With eating a lot of fat, it’s very satiating. So it’s really hard to overeat coconut oil and avocado oil and olive oil. But it’s very easy to overeat chips and French fries and these sugary types of carbohydrates. When you’re on the keto diet, what you’ll find is that you’re actually less hungry than if you were eating mostly carbohydrates throughout the day.
That’s why, on the keto diet, most people eat around two meals a day. Sometimes one meal a day, sometime two, maybe three. But you’re so full from these types of high-fat foods.
So yes, it is more calorically dense. You need to be aware of that. Nine calories per gram verses four calories per gram of proteins and carbohydrates. So yes, it is more calorically dense, but what most people find is that you’re less hungry less often throughout the day.
So that’s why, for me, when I switched over to keto, I went from eating seven meals a day every couple of hours to eating once or twice a day. My brain, the mental clarity is through the roof. My digestion is so much better because I’m not having to digest food all day long. And my performance in the gym is just as good as it was when I was eating seven meals a day.
That’s what happens on the ketogenic diet, but you do need to be aware. You can’t just eat as many calories as you want. It’s not a free-for-all. That’s why My Fitness Pal and tracking maybe the first week or two is ideal to kind of see how many calories you’re eating, where your macros are, to get a feel for it.
Kathy Smith: Give us a day in the life of Drew or a person starting a ketogenic diet. You mentioned two meals. I’m going to go with two instead of the one, because I think that would be a shock to most people’s system. But cutting back to two meals, what are you eating in those two meals?
Drew Manning: I talk about this in detail in my book and kind of map it out for people in my 30-day program in the book. But in a nutshell, what I do in the mornings, I wake up, have lots of water. Then I’ll have my coffee or tea, but I’ll add healthy fats to it. I’ll add maybe some grass-fed butter or some MCT oil powder, which comes from coconut oil. You can do coconut oil as well.
Adding some healthy fats to your coffee or tea first thing in the morning is a great brain boost. You’re adding in healthy fats that your brain loves. Maybe a little bit of caffeine, you get this energy boost and it suppresses your appetite. That’s kind of like my “breakfast”, if you will. But it’s not very calorically dense. It’s maybe 100 or 200 calories, but you feel pretty full. That will last me until about lunchtime.
Then lunchtime is where I have my first big meal of the day. It’s like a big salad with salmon and avocado and eggs and olive oil and salt, maybe a handful of cashews or walnuts or something. That’s my lunch. That’s calorically dense. You’re eating a lot of protein and healthy fats in that meal. That will last me until dinnertime.
Then maybe for dinner, I’ll do a couple of grass-fed burgers with some avocado and bacon with a side of sautéed vegetables. I’ll sauté my vegetables in either avocado oil or coconut oil or maybe some grass-fed butter every once in a while. I add a lot of salt to my veggies, which if you don’t like veggies, having them sautéed in some healthy fat will make it taste so much better.
That’s a typical day for me. It’s not a ton of food. You’re not a slave to food anymore, having to eat every three hours. You don’t get hangry. The mental clarity is, like I said, through the roof. And you’re giving your digestive system a break from having to digest food all day long.
Kathy Smith: I was with you through breakfast, through lunch, and then we get to dinner with the two burgers with the bacon and etc. What happens if you are less of a meat eater, more vegetable or even for the people out there that are vegans and don’t want to go with any of the meats – not even pescatarians, which I’m more of a pescatarian. I’ll go more with the salmon and the sardines and things like that. But if you’re avoiding meat, can you be in ketosis?
Drew Manning: 100% – and this is why I included a section in my book specifically for vegetarians and for vegans to give them a detailed meal plan of what keto looks like for these other ways of eating. So yes, it doesn’t need to be red meat and dairy. Actually, all my recipes in my book are dairy-free. These are just examples of maybe my type of diet. That’s the thing – people think keto is very heavy on the red meat and heavy on the dairy. It doesn’t need to be that way, so that’s why it’s very important for vegetarians and vegans to have options.
Let’s say for a vegetarian that they’re okay with eating eggs, one of my favorite things is eggs with some coconut oil and a bunch of vegetables like spinach and chopped up broccoli and cauliflower. Then scramble that with some really good salt, it’s going to taste amazing. The reason I say salt is because just like fat was demonized, salt was also demonized back in the day as well. But newer research is showing that salt is really important for our bodies. On keto, it’s essential, because what will happen is people will experience the keto flu if they’re not getting in their electrolytes.
So when I say adding salt to your food on all these meals, it’s real important so that your electrolytes stay balanced so that you feel optimal and that you don’t experience the keto flu like some people experience.
Kathy Smith: I do want to get into some of the side effects that people have told me about with the keto diet. Before we do, let’s just talk about this state of ketosis. How do we know that we’re in ketosis? I hear certain people talking about pee strips where you can actually urinate on a strip every morning to see if you’re in ketosis. I know that you suggest other ways. Can you tell us how you know you’re in ketosis?
Drew Manning: Yeah. There are a few different ways of measuring, but this is the fascinating thing about the keto diet. It’s literally the only diet you can test for proof that you’re actually in a different metabolic state where you’re burning fat as energy. Yes, there are the urine strips you can pee on. I don’t recommend those, because they’re not very accurate. They’re definitely more affordable. They’re super cheap and you just pee on it and it shows up a certain color. You hold the color to the diagram on the container it comes in, and it will show you, based on the color, how deep in ketosis you are. But it’s not very accurate, because those are the ketones that are showing up there your body’s actually getting rid of as waste.
They might show up in the beginning, but as you become more keto adapted, which means you’re becoming more efficient at burning fat for fuel, your body’s going to start to hold onto those ketones instead of getting rid of them through the waste.
The most accurate way of measuring if you’re in ketosis is by using a blood ketone monitor. It’s kind of like a glucose monitor that diabetics use. You can test for ketones in the blood. This is the gold-standard way. It’s the most accurate way. There’s a prick of the finger. You put it onto a strip, into this little device that’s maybe between $20 to $40 on average, depending on where you buy it. Then it shows up on the meter. Anything above a 0.5 is nutritional ketosis.
It’s a way you can measure in the morning or at night. If you want to prick your finger and say, “I’ve been doing keto for a week. I wonder where my levels are.” Anything above 0.5 is nutritional ketosis. So that’s what’s really cool and fascinating about this diet is you can actually prove that you’re actually in a different metabolic state.
Kathy Smith: How often do you check yourself and how often do you recommend people check? Is it daily, is it weekly, is it monthly? How often do you check?
Drew Manning: Great question. In the beginning, I think it’s real important to test maybe the first week or two. Beyond that, I maybe test a few times a year, a week at a time. I can kind of tell when I’m in ketosis. I know when I’m in ketosis because I’ve been doing it for so long. I think, for people, in the beginning, maybe for the first week in the morning and at night, kind of see your levels and how they change.
It’s important for people to kind of know that they’re in ketosis, one. But also, to see how certain foods affect their ketone levels. Let’s say, “I’m not sure if this avocado is too much carbs or if I had a handful of chips that I know I shouldn’t have. Did that knock me out of ketosis?” Those kinds of things are good for that person to kind of know, “Hey, maybe 35 grams of carbs is where my threshold is,” or maybe 40 or 50. For me, my threshold is usually in the 60 to 70 grams range, which is more than most people. But I know that, because I test. That’s the kind of value that can bring to you. But I don’t recommend doing that all the time. Maybe for the first week or two.
Kathy Smith: You mentioned that you have organic ways to feel that you’re in ketosis or know you’re in ketosis. What’s your checklist? What do you notice in your body or your brain to know that you’re in ketosis?
Drew Manning: One is the hunger pangs go away. I’m not as hungry as often. I’ve done up to a seven-day fast before in the past. I’ve done a couple of four-day fasts and three-day fasts, a lot of 24-hour fasts. For most people, they would struggle fasting. But the longer you do keto, the more fat-adapted your body becomes, which means it’s really good at breaking down stored body fat as energy so that you feel efficient, that’s one of the signs to know if you’re in ketosis – is not feeling as hungry as often. But like I said, the mental clarity, you feel like Bradley Cooper from the movie Limitless where he takes that clear pill and your brain is on fire. You can work so much more efficiently throughout the day and you’re not as hungry as often.
Some people will notice a change in their breath, because there are ketones that show up in our breath actually. Some people think it smells bad, but that’s usually a sign of dehydration. If you’re not staying on top of your electrolytes like your salt and your water, then that probably contributes to the bad breath, which some people might have heard of.
Kathy Smith: Yeah. The other thing that’s being talked about a lot online, it’s a more sensitive area. But for women, it’s the vaginal smell that people are talking about. But most of the time, people are saying that it is a transition period and eventually, it levels out for both of those. But I find it interesting that that’s another topic that women are talking about.
Speaking about women since most of our listeners are women, this idea of should you be in a state of ketosis all the time or are you a believer in carb cycling or cycling the diet in a sense, and cycling where you are eating more carbohydrates to perhaps minimize the stress effect of this whole thing?
I know as I’ve talked to different specialists in this area that they talk about, for women, the cortisol hit that you have on your body by maybe putting it in a stress response can aggravate other things in your system. Any thoughts on that?
Drew Manning: Yes. I talk about this in my book a lot in detail. Here’s the thing. I think, as humans, we were meant to be metabolically flexible, which means our ancestors had to go through periods of time where we didn’t have access to food, which is why we have ketosis as a backup system to help us stay alive for long periods of time when we had to go through a famine for example. I think the key to optimal health is metabolic flexibility, which means you’re keto adapted if you have to go without for a certain period of time. But also, maybe there’s a time of feasting, and we have access to fresh vegetables and fruits and whatever we can eat that was high in carbohydrates. And I think really the key is being able to be flexible at both fuel sources, both glucose and ketones.
For me, I talk about this in the book. That’s why I did a 30-day program – is it’s good to maybe go in and out of ketosis from time to time and add back in the carbohydrates once you become keto adapted. The thing that needs to happen first is the keto adaptation phase of I would say at least 30 days – maybe 60 days for some people – to get adapted to the keto diet and used to using ketones as a fuel source. From there, experiment with some carb cycling.
In the book, I talk about three different methods for people. One is a cyclical keto diet, which basically means they’ll do five days of strict keto after the keto adaptation period. They’ll do five days of strict keto followed by two days of higher carb days where they’re eating lots of fruits and lots of sweet potatoes and potatoes and maybe some rice. Then they cycle back into ketosis during the week.
The other option is a targeted ketogenic diet, which is also for after the keto adaptation phase, they can add in carbohydrates around their workouts. So if they’re an athlete and they want better performance in the gym, they can add in carbohydrates – maybe 20 grams or so – pre and post workout to kind of have their body run off of both fuel sources – glucose and ketones – efficiently. That’s a great option for people that want more of a performance boost.
The other method is called the intermittent keto diet, which is where maybe they do a 30-day reset of the keto diet maybe twice a year maybe in January, maybe in September to kind of reset the body, cleanse the body, but also, the whole idea of metabolic flexibility is to get back into ketosis for 30 days and then cycle in carbs later on. That’s why I offer those options for people is because they think, “If I go keto, I have to stay keto for the rest of my life.” That’s not the case.
Kathy Smith: I love those three options. That’s great that you offer that. I think it’s worth emphasizing that we keep talking about fat adapted. If listeners don’t understand what that means, it’s that once again, we have been burning sugars, burning glucose, we’ve trained our bodies very well to use that carbohydrate source. But many times, a lot of us over the years have almost lost the ability to tap into the fat stores – or it’s become harder. When you go through a program like the 30-day resetter, the program in Drew’s book, what you’re really doing is training your body to take this amazing source of fuel that we have – fat – and start to burn it.
Even though, logically, you’re going, “How come my body doesn’t know how to do that?” Or, “How have I lost the ability?” Once you start to see it happen, once you go through maybe an initial period where you have an adjustment period, all of these benefits that Drew has been talking about – brain function, not getting hungry – it is amazing to be at point in your life where it’s 1:00 in the afternoon and you’re going, “I don’t think I’ve eaten today yet. I’d better eat.”
That has never happened. It was like, “It’s 7:00 a.m. I’ve got to have some of these. It’s 11:00 a.m. I’d better have something.” And being able to maneuver back and forth through both is where you really get a lot of energy. But let’s talk about supplements. I know that you recommend some supplements. I think one of the complaints people talk about on some keto diets is there are too many supplements. What are you recommending?
Drew Manning: First and foremost, supplements are not the key to doing keto successfully. They are a supplement. They can make living keto easier. But I just want to make that clear– even though I own my own supplement company– is that diet and exercise are first and foremost. And supplements are a small piece of the puzzle. They can just make it more convenient.
So if I had to pick and choose, obviously salt– even though some people don’t look at it as a supplement– is by far the most important thing on keto just so that you don’t experience the keto flu or imbalance of electrolytes. Even though it’s not technically a supplement, I want you to supplement with salt.
From there, MCT oil is a very convenient healthy source of fat. All that is in a nutshell – I won’t get too science-y – is it’s a very healthy source of fat that is very common nowadays. It stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. All it means is your body converts that so quickly into energy that your body doesn’t store it as fat. So people will add it to their coffee or their tea, or they’ll cook with it. It’s just a healthy fat that helps your body produce its own ketones.
The other supplement that is really popular that is probably why people think it’s expensive is something called BHBs, which is Beta Hydroxybutyrate. What that is in a nutshell is exogenous ketones. Basically, when you’re in a state of ketosis, your body’s producing ketones. Now, you can take a supplement that’s flavored, that tastes delicious. It tastes like a fruity drink. It’s really good, and you can drink it. What it does is it’s bio-identical to the ketones your body produces. So it’s flooding your body with this energy source. So if you’re having a tough time the first week, adding in BHBs, for example, these exogenous ketones can help your body use those ketones as a fuel sources a lot quicker. So it helps out with the transition a lot.
So is it necessary? No. But it does make it more convenient and can help out for people that might be experiencing the keto flu.
Kathy Smith: So it’s kind of like an honest way to cheat on the whole thing.
Drew Manning: In a sense, yeah. What you’ll notice taking it is a big brain boost and it suppresses your appetite. It’s as if its mimicking what happens when you fast for a long period of time. It mimics that where your ketones in your blood are elevated, and it can actually show up on the blood ketone test that I talked about by taking this supplement.
Kathy Smith: Okay. We’ll just sort of finish off. I know another thing in your book that’s different from a lot of other books out there is you focus on the fitness side of the 30-day program. We talk, obviously, a lot about fitness on this program. But the one thing I wanted to focus on in the remaining minutes is this idea of m-rep and this idea of, as you put it, as many reps as possible in a certain amount of time. You get people started on that so that they can gage their progress. But can you explain that to us a little bit?
Drew Manning: Here’s the thing. When it comes to health and fitness, we focus so much on weight loss as the end all, be all. What I wanted to do by adding in a fitness program was to set people up for wins outside of the scale. Because as we all know, the scale doesn’t reflect you being successful on a diet or your overall health. The way the workouts are programmed are sometimes there’s an m-rep where you have a 10-minute time limit, for example, and you have to get as many reps in as maybe as burpees and squats and sit-ups. And you do as many as you can. You count it out and at the end of the 10 minutes, let’s say you got to 100. What you’re going to do is you’re going to repeat that exercise next week and you’re going to try and beat that score. So it’s you versus you.
It’s literally to show you that you are getting stronger faster. Your fitness is increasing and so that way, even if you don’t lose weight, you can say, “Hey. I know I’m getting stronger. I’m getting more in shape. Because the next week I did 120 reps.” And the week after that, maybe you got to 140 or 150 reps to show you that you’re making progress even though you might not always see it on the scale.
Kathy Smith: I think for a lot of people, this idea of short workouts still doesn’t resonate, because they don’t realize how much you can accomplish in a period of 10 or 15 minutes. I had a girlfriend in town a couple of weeks ago and she was a walker. She did a lot of long, slow things, and I’ve been encouraging her for years to try something like an m-rep type thing. So we went to the gym and I showed her. I did a 12 or 14-minute routine with her.
Her eyes opened up to the fact that with that kind of routine, not only do you have this gage, not only are you pushing yourself, but also the mental clarity that you have when you get out of a 14-minute push like that. Because you have no time to think about anything else. You’re not walking and thinking about your laundry list or anything else. You are going for it. And it is pretty remarkable. So I like that you put it in there, because I think most people and most women don’t understand, still, the power of intensity.
I was going to a class once, and they said, “If you can’t get your workout in 20 minutes, you’re doing something wrong.” There’s something to be said for longer workouts, obviously. But I do like the fact that you’ve added that.
In a wrap up, we’re going to go on a cruise – fit2fat2fit – everybody should be looking for. Obviously looking and buying the book Complete Keto. Anything else that you want to talk about as far as what you’re promoting or you’re going to be around that you want to talk about?
Drew Manning: I think if you just go to my social media handles, they’re all at fit2fat2fit. I’ll keep you posted on future events. I’m doing some book tours. I’m heading out to Nashville this week to do a book tour out there. I’m heading to Phoenix in April. So I’ll keep you posted on my website fit2fat2fit.com on all my activity and things coming up. Yes, stay in touch. I’ll try and keep you guys entertained on social media. I really appreciate you having me on, Kathy.
Kathy Smith: Drew, it’s always a pleasure. You’re the best. I encourage everybody to go out and buy the book and try it. It is life changing. Thanks so much, Drew. Appreciate it.
Drew Manning: Thanks, Kathy.