James Grage: I see the benefits of a ketogenic diet, and we talk about it all the time, so I know there are health benefits and weight loss benefits… it’s just trying to figure out what that sweet spot is.
Dr. Brett Osborn: I think it has to do with your goals. If you’re in this to body build and you’re trying to hypertrophy your muscles, you are not gonna do real well on these ketogenic diets. Which is why bodybuilders don’t do that! They only do it when they’re trying to get lean. And they sacrifice muscle.
James: So guys like Whitney and I that aren’t trying to get any bigger or stronger, but would always like to be leaner, especially consistently… that’s my goal. How do I maintain lean muscle, still feel good in the gym and stay lean?
Dr. O: It’s just a matter of experimenting with your biochemistry. You really need to make it into a science project. Everything here is always data-based. We’re always looking at data. So you need to try and control everything and just start manipulating the macros. Since you don’t have any immediate goals, you don’t need to push the system. I don’t like the term, but what does a bodybuilder do when they want to bulk up? Drink Coke, eat pizza and popcorn and Skittles, and they’re gonna become huge! And then they taper it down. That’s not the goal here. The goal is to sort of stay in one place.
James: How big do you want to be? How strong do you want to be? How lean do you want to be? It really just depends on your goal.
Dr. O: I want to be able to deadlift 500 lbs. at a body weight of 170 lbs. I can. Great! That’s a nice barometer for me. I want to be able to squat into the 400s. I can do these things. I’m not much of a bencher, so I don’t gravitate towards it. Would I like to do it? Sure. But I’d probably get injured or I’ll probably have to push the system harder. In other words, eat a lot in order to bench X number of pounds.
Whitney Reid: But then maybe you’re sacrificing your goal for being lean.
Dr. O: Right. And this is the problem. So you have to decide what your goal is. If it’s just a matter of staying where you are, maintaining a really great degree of fitness, muscularity and leanness then you can do that on these modified ketogenic protocols. We do. But if you want to push the system one way or another, you’re going to sacrifice something. One way or another. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It doesn’t happen.
James: That’s the funny thing about this conversation is that we’re talking about two guys that have done that through our careers in the gym. We’ve experimented with what works. One of the best things I ever learned from a bodybuilder that was very successful is that he took copious notes every time he did a diet. He approached it with the scientific method, which is just changing one variable at a time and being very patient. Measuring the results, coming to a conclusion, trying another thing and over time, finding what works for him. That was his takeaway from the whole thing: what works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for you.
Dr. O: 100 percent.
James: That’s my big thing with a lot of these “magic” diets. The ketogenic diet is being touted as this one-size-fits-all, miracle weight loss thing. I’m not anti keto, I just want people to be better educated and understand that you’re not gonna have the best of all worlds. If you want to lose a lot of fat or a lot of weight, it works. It absolutely works.