In defense of protein in your keto diet and bone broth fast benefits
When participating in a ketogenic diet it is always important to understand your priorities. If your goals are to produce therapeutic levels of ketones to manage a neurological disease such as epilepsy and parkinsons, a 4:1 classical keto of 4g fat for every 1g combination of protein and carbs. This type of ketogenic approach relies heavily on addition of fats and restriction of protein in addition to focused restriction of carbs to stay within ratio. For most people using nutritional ketosis to reduce insulin levels, regulate blood sugar, support weight loss, inflammatory bowel, cognition, mood stability, hormone balance and more, this classical 4:1 ratio is not required and frankly is likely not appropriate.
I am often rescuing clients, especially women, from inadequate protein intake as they are restricting in fear of gluconeogenesis, the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates, and transamination of proteins, the conversion of amino acids into glucose. However this concept is widely exaggerated and when clients restrict protein to less than 60g per day, I often see clinical symptoms of protein malnourishment including fluid retention, fatigue, hair loss, brain fog and more! Learn about the Top 6 signs of protein deficiency here!
Protein is essential for many functions in the body providing amino acids to support detoxification, mood stability, tissue repair, and immune function while promoting satiety and appetite control. I get great success shifting clients thrive from chasing fat to meet their “macro goals” and minimizing protein to adjusting their ketogenic diet to a moderate fat and moderate-high protein intake with a low carb diet especially if they have body fat reserves.
Protein often takes a hit in the health world for its impact on insulin, IGF-1, mTor and other potential markers of anabolism, building, and rapid growth, but I will unpack this concept and connect the fact that protein may not only not be inhibitory of the benefits of a ketogenic diet it very well will support outcomes and can be supportive even in the sense of adding bone broth to a fast. My bone broth fast provides structure with time restricted and calorie restricted eating but also provides nutrient density of glycine and glutamine as amino acids in broth to further enhance support body fat burn and gut repair.
Remember Food-as-Medicine is equally about removal as it is about abundance!
But what about mTOR and consumption of bone broth or a protein-based food?
mTOR is a mammalian target of rapomyacin, this is essentially a target of protein synthesis in the body that has been identified as a factor for cancer, aging, immune function, and obesity.
High levels: stimulate growth, may be growth of healthy or of malformed cells such as cancer
Low levels: holds on growth with focus for repair, maintenance, and autophagy
Autophagy is the process of cellular clean up, essentially the body mediated by immune cells will surveillance functional and non-functional cells repairing those that need support and killing those that are invaders such as pathogen, virus, cellular malformation, tumor.
If you’ve made it this far, clearly you are a nerd, awesome, let’s keep going. mTOR is fueled by glucose and amino acids, this is often the argument against a high protein diet or diet rich in animal protein as protein foods are comprised of amino acids. My bone broth fast focuses on an animal product, bone broth, as the primary source of nourishment in a calorie restricted and time restricted eating model to upregulate autophagy. But how can this be? How can bone broth which is rich in amino acids support a fasted state and how does this not interfere with or activate mTOR of which stimulation may be concerning for anabolic growth.
The reality is often we jump on a research concept without understanding the foundation to which it is applied. For instance, there are studies that note glutamine an amino acid that is rich in bone broth and often boasted for its gut lining support (glutamine fuels growth of enterocytes thus gut tissue repair) may interfere with the benefits of a fast, however, studies demonstrate interference at 30g where as 15g of gelatinous broth provides only about 1.75g of glutamine and a chicken breast about 3-5g, 30g is not going to be met with a bone broth fast nor is it met with consumption of GI Lining Support in a balanced diet.
It is important when looking at research on the influence of “protein” to not get too myopic and recognize that it is the dose that makes the poison!
I was always confident that a bone broth fast yielded benefits by merely being calorie restricted and time restricted eating with the benefits of the nutrients in broth discussed here, but I was weary when people inquired on the influence of amino acids on mTOR and mechanisms of fasting as would the amino acids in bone broth inhibit the benefits?
I recently listened to a podcast by my friends Maura and Danny Vega, Fat Fueled Family with guest Dr. Benjamin Bikman and it nailed this concept home. I was convinced on a concept I was already intuitively clear on, the influence of protein on benefits of fasting markers is significantly less interruptive (and possibly not at all) than that of insulin and thus carbohydrate intake.
“Elevated IGF1 in the level of a protein rich diet doesn’t seem to get to the point of a risk factor for chronic disease.” Maura Vega
“You could look at mTOR activation in leukocytes and it will go up and go down, but Insulin will increase mTor about 4x higher than the most anabolic of all the amino acids, leucine. We should be pointing the finger at insulin.” Dr. Benjamin Bikman
Also when thinking about bone broth beyond the benefits discussed in my book The Anti-Anxiety Diet, bone broth provides glycine an amino acid that aids in neuromuscular relaxation and stress release as well as upregulates autophagy so not only will one not suffer from the amino acids in bone broth interfering with fasting status but the amino acid profile itself may support the fasting metabolic mechanisms.
Beyond the composition of bone broth itself, my bone broth fast and Virtual Food-as-Medicine 12-week ketosis program emphasizes therapeutic foods such as turmeric in my golden bone broth or golden milk late or Super Turmeric supplement will independently support mTOR reduction and its anti-inflammatory restorative effects.
All in all, a bone broth fast is a great way to support gut restoration, immune reset, and body composition shift especially after a time of distress. Both the removal of inflammatory compounds and the abundance of nutrients in bone broth will aid in gut rehab and metabolic boost as the body fat is able to be metabolized as insulin levels go down.
To optimize longevity and cancer fighting principles it is important to focus on regulating IGF-1 and mTOR (the 2 “anti-protein” risk factors) by following a ketogenic diet and practicing intermittent fasting. When you reduce the body’s excessive intake of food both frequency and quantity and provide time restricted eating discipline insulin levels go down which favorably impacts IGF-1 and mTOR. Practicing a bone broth fast may be a nice way to accelerate calorie restriction with satiety and enhanced gut support and the amino acid composition seems to be supportive of fasting as opposed to disruptive.
When focusing on mTor activation and impact, energy should go towards demonizing refined carbohydrates and refined sugar as they provoke insulin response and have no essential need or nutritional benefit where as amino acids in protein-rich foods have a quarter or less influence and provide essential needs and therapeutic value for the body.
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