The Potatogenic Diet

Ketogenic diets are all the rage lately. This is a diet where you eat mostly fat to trick your body into thinking you are starving in the hopes that it starts stripping your body of its accumulated fat stores. There are some impressive examples of success with keto diets, starting with the Godfather of Ketosis, Jimmy Moore:

Jimmy Moore has been on a ketogenic diet for 12+ years now, but it seems to have stopped working. Too much bacon, not enough potatoes?

jimmy moore 2017

KetoTalk, 5/11/2017

Mark Sisson

Mark Sisson is the guy responsible for my health transformation starting in 2010.  Someone turned me on to Mark’s Daily Apple and his Primal Blueprint books, and there was no looking back. Mark has advice for everybody from the morbidly obese to the world-class athlete.

I’d been reading about ketogenic diets for years, but did not think they made sense. My viewpoint was (and still is) much as Sisson put it in 2015:

My personal hunch (and I’ve said this for as long as I can remember) is that indefinite ketosis is unnecessary and perhaps even undesirable for most healthy people, and that occasional, even regular dips into ketosis (through fasting, very low-carb cycles, intense exercise) are preferable and sufficient. That way, you get the benefits of cyclical infusions of BHB and other ketones without running afoul of any potential unforeseen negative effects. — Mark Sisson

Now Mark has a new book soon to be released, The Keto Reset Diet; Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever! I can’t wait to read it when it’s released in October 2017.  If this is truly a short-term reset diet, it will be a big step up from the long-term keto diets currently being sold to the public.

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The Potatogenic Diet

It’s time for me to get on board with this keto craze! While most keto-gurus are touting high fat to get into ketosis, guess what also works…POTATOES!

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That’s right folks, eat nuttin’ but spuds for a couple days and you will be IN KETOSIS!  Potasis, ketatosis, spudogenesis, ketuberos, whatever you call it, it happens.  Like magic!

It turns out that to be in ketosis, that is, “a metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues,” one needs not eat high levels of fatty foods, one can also eat high levels of potatoes. You see, when you are eating less than your body needs, your body automatically switches to creating and burning ketones from your bodily fat stores. Fat is just a red herring. If you overeat typical keto treats, you will not lose weight, but gain.  And there are no end of these ketogenic diet treats available nowadays!

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Let’s Get Potatogenic!

If you’ve been wanting to get on the keto bandwagon, but you’re leery of all the fat, supplements, and general weirdness which surrounds the ketosphere, then try this:

  • Eat potatoes.
  • Repeat.

After about 36 hours of eating a simple potato-only diet, you will be in a state of ketosis.  Don’t believe me?  Then buy some tools of the trade and measure for yourself, all you’ll need is “Ketostix” or a fancy-dancy ketometer. km

Using these simple devices, you’ll quickly learn how many potatoes it takes to keep you in a constant state of potatosis.

If you are not big on technology, you won’t need these. Just look for clues: Are you losing weight? Are you eating fewer calories than you need to maintain weight? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you are in ketatosis.

Now you might think I’m joking, but I’m not. Test it out for yourself.

Take Home Message

The Ketogenic Diet being sold around the internet is nothing more than a calorie-restricted high-fat diet. But the truth is, ketosis can be found not just with an ultra-low carbohydrate intake, but a diet that consists of nearly 100% carbohydrates.

If you are in ketosis, you are in a fat loss mode. But, if you eat lots of fat, you can overeat and still be in ketosis (according to the meter and sticks). This is fake ketosis. Just because you have ketones in your blood and urine means little if you are eating excess calories. Most of the supplements sold, ie. exogenous ketones, are simply designed to fool you into thinking you are in a weight loss state.

The only way a ketogenic diet will work for fat loss is when there are fewer calories coming in than you need to maintain your weight. Period. This can be done with a high carb diet just as easily as high fat…but I doubt that’s going to be in any keto book soon.

There’s always more than one way to skin a cat.

Tim Steele

29 Comments on “The Potatogenic Diet”

  1. rnikoley June 14, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

    I consider the write-up on Mark’s book to be utter hype nonsense.

    Disappointing, but also worrisome.

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 15, 2017 at 5:24 am #

      I played with Atkin’s Diet in the ’90’s. Ketosis was a big part of it. My Ketostix would show I was in ketosis pretty much no matter what I ate as long as it was very low calories, or very high in fat. The low cal keto led to weight loss, the high fat not. To me the “eat fat” part is just a red herring, nothing to do with weight loss, just tricking the Ketostix.

      Like

  2. Natasha June 15, 2017 at 5:09 am #

    Wow Tim! Talk about turning the Ketosis thing on its head. Well done.

    Like

  3. Debbie June 15, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    So, Jimmy Moore gained his weight back, and is continuing to guru his followers? What’s going on there?

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 15, 2017 at 8:09 am #

      It’s all about marketing and addiction to the money it drives in. Sadly. Keto diets are a marketer’s dream. Tons of supplements, books, even cruises. I take one look at Jimmy Moore and run.

      Like

  4. Allison L Friedman June 15, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    Glad to see this common sense discussion of ketosis. It is simple, really!

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

      Yep. Simple biology. No magic. In actuality, they should be calling it a ‘Ketosis Mimicking Diet.’ When you eat mainly fat, even overeating, and take endogenous ketones, you will have high levels of circulating ketones in your bloodstream. This may have therapeutic value for epilepsy or cancer, but it does not guarantee weight loss. A true ketogenic diet would keep you in ketosis while eating ample carbs and protein as well, but at levels that cause a calorie deficit. This is, in fact, now being called a ‘fasting mimicking diet‘ and is being used in medical interventions. This is more of a true “keto” diet than anything that Jimmy Moore or Mark Sisson will dream up in an effort to further the low-carb narrative.

      Like

  5. Kate June 16, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    Ha, just read thru a couple of posts on Ketosis at Mark’s Daily Apple and I was wondering what Tim would think of all this. What do you know, potatogenic diet!

    Like

  6. Dan June 16, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    I remember reading in low carb books that measuring ketosis may provide some kind of short term reward incentive, i.e. “proof” that something is working, but ketosis in and of itself does not create any bodyfat loss advantage beyond that achieved by a calorie deficit. Still true?

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

      Yes, I think that makes sense. Any time you painstakingly measure things like exercise, calories, weight, or whatever you are more likely to see good results than if you just guess at it. Although, the overall goal needs to be that we get really good at estimating what we need so that we are not slaves to counting every morsel or movement.

      Like

  7. Dan June 16, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    Hypothetically, all else being equal – if three people were gathered for a weight loss challenge and for 30 days, person 1 ate a 100% fat diet, person 2 ate a 100% protein diet and person 3 ate a 100% carb diet – and all 3 diets provided the same number of calories – in this hypothetical world, all 3 people would lose the same amount of weight, right?

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

      If they all had the exact same metabolism and burned calories at the exact same rate, then hypothetically yes. However, the 100% fat group would starve their gut flora leading to short term loss of about 5 pounds of bacteria as they crap themselves silly. The 100% protein group might end up with “rabbit starvation” aka protein poisoning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_poisoning, and lose weight through dehydration and diarrhea.

      The 100% carbohydrate group would probably fare the best, health-wise. Hypothetically speaking.

      One thing that dawned on me from your two comments, Dan…when tracking calories, a diet high in fat would be easiest to track since fat is very standard in it’s calorie content. When you eat meat, you get fat and protein, when you eat plants you get carbs, fat, and protein. On a mixed diet, it’s VERY hard to track calories within 10% accuracy, except for spoonfuls of butter and coconut oil. These you can track with astronomical precision.

      Like

  8. Fiona June 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi Tim, I just bought your book. I found it really interesting. Love seeing the results of experiments you and others have done. I have been reading all the old comments from Free the Animal, VeggiePharm and this website. It resonates with me because back in my 20s I stumbled across the “potato hack” after a chef told me that mashed potato was filling and stopped you feeling hungry. I tried it and noticed that Iost my incessant hunger and so tried a few days of it. I lost weight really easily without being hungry. I did it a few times – I used to use a little milk when I mashed the potato though. I sort of forgot about it in my 30s and 40s and recently did the LCHF ketogenic diet for a couple of years – bad move. In the end I just became bloated and I gained weight – at the time I didn’t understand why but see now that it was probably because it killed my gut bacteria. It gives me hope that you and a few others have done similar things and are better. I am just hoping that I didn’t starve and make too many good bacterias extinct!!

    So I was really interested when I came across your blog and the blogs you comment in and your book. I am hoping that the potato hack will work the same as it used to for me.

    I think I have read in your book (or one of the comments) that potato has probiotics deep inside? (I will see if I can find where I read it.) I have tried googling that and haven’t been able to find anything more about that? Is it just me misreading?

    Thank you for all your research and for being so generous and free with your findings and in your answers to comments and questions! 🙂

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 17, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

      Fiona – It’s true! There are microbes living inside potatoes, and all plants for that matter. I apologize if it sounds in the book like this is special to potatoes. While it may be special in the exact microbes that are inside a potato since these microbes are adapted to the potato, and then we eat the potato. Starch has played a huge part of human evolution, so it makes sense that “endophytic” bacteria (and fungi) found in a starchy food would be classified as a probiotic. Scientists are just now seeing the importance of the bacteria found in/on the foods we eat.

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      • Fiona June 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

        That is really fascinating Tim. Thank you for the article. It would make sense that the microbes in the potato may be uniquely beneficial for us and create particularly positive diversity in the gut as so many people report feeling better and as your N=1 shows??

        Like

      • Fiona June 20, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

        Hi again, I have another question. In the book you mention ruminococcus bromii as being a sort of precursor to bacillus and bifidobacteria. Is it rare not to have this microbe? Are there other ways that bacillus and bifidobacteria can be fed or is it only from this microbe? Would it be worth sending a sample off to a lab to get tested or are there other symptoms which indicate no ruminococcus bromii is present in the gut?

        I wonder what the specific microbes are inside the potato?? Could it be possible that they would be ones like ruminococcus bromii or similar ones?? Maybe it could be one of the reasons that potato juice seems so beneficial and healing – because it adds these sort of bacterias back and the RS help these get further down?? Potato juice isn’t close to my favourite but I thought it may be good to add it for a while and see what benefits come from it also?

        The food aspect of the gut is so interesting – I wonder if the mind aspect is just as complex. There is a study I have read about (could have even been on one of the blogs of FTA or yours??) that show that puppies taken from their mother showed symptoms of trauma (more crying was one but I am unable to remember all of them) and that their gut bacteria changed in a negative way. When the puppies were reunited with their mother their gut bacteria didn’t get better and the symptoms of trauma remained. The researchers then gave the puppies the gut bacteria they were missing and it was only after their gut was back to normal that their symptoms of trauma stopped and they behaved as normal puppies do.

        I am studying counselling and our teacher mentioned that there is a window of time wherein longterm damage from trauma can be minimised or stopped if the right support and counselling is given. I wonder if changes to gut bacteria are involved in that also. ??

        Like

        • Tim Steele June 21, 2017 at 8:02 am #

          Fiona! Wow, that’s a lot of questions, lol. Sorry if I don’t have all the answers.

          R. bromii seems to be one of those universal gut bugs that everyone has, but it is very beneficial and will increase in response to eating more potatoes. In this paper, they found: “Microbiota analyses revealed that the relative abundance of RS-degrading organisms—Bifidobacterium adolescentis or Ruminococcus bromii—increased from ~2 to 9 % in the enhanced and high groups, but remained at ~1.5 % in the low group.” ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4928258/ ).

          I doubt you have to eat potatoes to acquire R. bromii, but it will appreciate it if you do. There are still lots and lots of unknowns as to where all these bacteria come from, some come from Mom, but others are gained through eating and living. Your remarks on potato juice sound reasonable, even though not generally considered “probiotic,” potato juice undoubtedly contains bacteria that are helpful to us.

          The link between gut bacteria and the brain and other parts of the body, ie. cancer or immune system, are just now being realized. New papers come out almost every day. I’d recommend searching PubMed often to read the latest, for instance, from this month alone:

          The microbiome-gut-brain axis: implications for schizophrenia and antipsychotic induced weight gain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28624847

          Are the Gut Bacteria Telling Us to Eat or Not to Eat? Reviewing the Role of Gut Microbiota in the Etiology, Disease Progression and Treatment of Eating Disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28613252

          Can psychobiotics intake modulate psychological profile and body composition of women affected by normal weight obese syndrome and obesity? A double blind randomized clinical trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28601084

          Gut-Brain Glucose Signaling in Energy Homeostasis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28591631

          Daily Changes in Composition and Diversity of the Intestinal Microbiota in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa: A Series of Three Cases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28586130

          Hypothalamic Inflammation in Human Obesity is Mediated by Environmental and Genetic Factors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28576837

          GUT MICROBIOTA AND THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS: NEW INSIGHTS IN THE PATHOPHYSIOLOGY OF METABOLIC SYNDROME. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28557822

          These were from a PubMed search for “Brain-Gut,” you could refine the search further to find more specifics. Just keep in mind when reading…when they talk about a healthy gut and microbial diversity, it’s as easy as a potato to get.

          Thanks for the questions, hope this helped!
          Tim

          Like

          • Fiona June 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

            Hi Tim, Oops, yes – there ended up being more than the one question. I really appreciate your answering and for the papers and studies. Yes, they did help. 🙂
            I have been adding PS, inulin and baked and cooled potatoes for the last 3 weeks and have had good results so far – less binging and able to go a normal amount of time between eating, more focus on tasks. I am starting a proper Potato Hack next week with my husband and am looking forward to seeing what results from it.
            Have a fabulous day.
            Fiona

            Like

  9. Rob Hill June 17, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

    Really interesting! Tbh I was never too interested in ketosis for fat loss as I’ve always maintained my weight fairly easily. However the anti cancer/ autophagy effects I was interested in.

    I think high fat induced ketosis (if it is actually ketosis!) seems like a triple whammy for your gut microbiome. Not only is there a lack of prebiotics, but as Paul Jaminet pointed out a number of years ago – yeast have mitochondria, bacteria do not. Therefore in my simple logic:
    1. No preferential feeding of healthy bacteria.
    2. No SCFA – gut PH goes less acid/ more acid. This allows yeast to go fungal/ hyphal.
    3. The ketones preferentially feed the yeast/ fungus.

    I do still like a weekly fast and may throw in an occasional potato hack, but aiming for deep ketosis either through longer fasts or high fat is out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rob Hill June 17, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

      Typo! – Less acid/ more alkaline!

      Like

  10. Emmett June 18, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    Hi Tim, Chris Masterjohn did a podcast on how adding MCT oil to a high carb meal (mashed potatoes or even pasta) is more ketogenic than restricting your carbohydrates to ten percent of calories. Keep up the good work!

    Like

  11. Curtisy Briggs June 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Tim–another great post, and I wish I could make all the ketomaniacs read it!. I just wanted to mention another benefit I’ve discovered recently for RS and other prebiotics and probiotics, and that is the ability to improve bone mineralization and bone density. I have found various scientific studies that demonstrated this in animals. You may be aware of this, but I was not. And I love the idea that potatoes and other sources of RS could help people avoid osteoporosis drugs!

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 21, 2017 at 8:09 am #

      Curtisy – Yes, so it would seem that fiber is an important part of bone health: Diet, Gut Microbiome, and Bone Health.

      “Interactions between the environment, the gut microbiome, and host characteristics that influence bone health are beginning to be explored. This is the first area where functional benefits from diet-induced changes in the gut microbiome have been reported for healthy people. Several prebiotics that reach the lower intestine have resulted in an altered gut microbiome that is thought to enhance fermentation of the fibers to produce short-chain fatty acids. These changes are positively correlated with increases in fractional calcium absorption in adolescents and with increases in measures of bone density and strength in animal models. New methodologies are available to explore mechanisms and to refine intervention strategies.”

      I remember reading about calcium absorption and other effects of fibers/RS, but never really put it all together as it would relate to osteoporosis and bone health. Good find!

      Like

  12. Cheryl June 22, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    Tim – Personally, I completely trust that you’re giving accurate information regarding ketosis, but for the keto proponents in my life who aren’t familiar with your work, could you recommend an “official/science-minded” article or two? I’m particularly concerned for the health of one of my friends, and I want her to be as fully informed as possible. Thank you!

    Like

    • Tim Steele June 22, 2017 at 9:01 am #

      Hi Cheryl – I have pretty much stopped trying to talk people out of doing keto or low carb diets because they usually follow a typical pattern that I have observed over the past 7-8 years. Initial weight loss followed by long stalls and then weight regain. If the person does not adhere strictly to the diet, the results are disastrous, and a ketogenic diet is possibly the single most difficult diet to follow. In real life, you very rarely see anyone following an LC/keto diet for more than a year at which point they realize their mistakes and move on to another diet. Sadly, most people in this spiral never learn to eat properly or exercise wisely. I feel lucky that I was able to escape the pattern and have maintained my weight well by eating a mainly whole-foods diet (avoiding processed foods) and a year-round exercise program.

      To answer your question, here is a very good journal article that describes the ketogenic diet, it’s benefits and dangers. The conclusion contains a very important piece of advice:

      “A period of low carbohydrate ketogenic diet may help to control hunger and may improve fat oxidative metabolism and therefore reduce body weight. Furthermore new kinds of ketogenic diets using meals that mimic carbohydrate rich foods could improve the compliance to the diet [78]. Attention should be paid to patient’s renal function and to the transition phase from ketogenic diet to a normal diet that should be gradual and well controlled [69]. The duration of ketogenic diet may range from a minimum (to induce the physiological ketosis) of 2–3 weeks to a maximum (following a general precautionary principle) of many months (6–12 months). Correctly understood the ketogenic diet can be a useful tool to treat obesity in the hands of the physician.”

      Please note they only recommend “a period” of keto dieting, under the supervision of a physician. I have a feeling that most people’s doctors would laugh them out of the office if they asked to supervise a keto diet based on the ridiculous books and gurus that are popping up everywhere. If people want to try it on their own, more power to them, but if it does not work…move on to something else. Fast. I see people getting mired in the keto-world, buying all the gadgets and webinars, listening to endless podcasts that say the opposite of what they are experiencing, and still they perservere because some guy that never met them is telling them they just need to “keto harder.”

      Here’s another paper by a doctor who studies long term effects of ketogenic diets for epilepsy: Danger in the Pipeline for the Ketogenic Diet?

      “Obviously, it is too early to sound any alarm on the effects of diets on blood vessels. However, it serves to highlight the need for more studies examining potential silent adverse effects. Selenium deficiency in ketogenic diet patients may cause prolonged QT intervals and lead to cardiomyopathy (9). Vitamin D deficiency and acidosis can affect bone mineral density and eventually lead to fractures (10). Cardiovascular disease should be no exception, and as more adults start dietary therapies, there will likely be more studies such as this in the “pipeline.””

      Hope this helps!
      Tim

      Like

      • Cheryl June 22, 2017 at 9:32 am #

        Thank you, Tim! That’s exactly what I was hoping for. I also tend to avoid trying to change people’s minds, but this particular friend is very open and appreciative when I share information.

        Like

  13. La Frite June 22, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    LOL! Not only is this true, but if you happen to eat exogenous ketones, your body fat burning will stop. Hahaha…

    Yeah, just fast or eat very low cal for a few days, anything along these lines is ketogenic. A shame that the super high fat diet is also ketogenic. To me, it simply means that we are not supposed to eat an insane amount of fat!

    But spuds, that’s another story. I challenge anyone to eat boiled spuds only and become obese as a result 😀

    Like

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