I want to be transparent on this blog. I want you to read this and know that there is no façade or ulterior motives. This said, besides the initial acute symptoms of my accident and the 6-month period of rehab, I have experienced little to zero concussion symptoms. I didn’t realize this until meeting fellow brain injury sufferers in support groups at Oregon Health and Science University and Oregon State. I began to experience some permutation of “survivor’s guilt.” This quickly changed about 4 months ago when I began rolling Jiu Jitsu. I didn’t “ease” into sparring the first few weeks, so I sparred like every white belt: like a fish out of water. Literally, I barely breathed during rolls. Quickly, I was re-introduced to my buddies Intracranial Pressure. Afternoon Headaches, and Brain Fog. Great guys.
Simultaneously, I was following a diet higher in carbs, in an attempt to gain weight. If you don’t know, you should know that in my mind, carbs are a close runner up to ISIS in the list of “the greatest threats to American’s livelihood.” But I had recently read a book promoting carb consumption in order to increase testosterone, so I figured I would jump back on the carb train for a bit. I felt great in the weight room, but for some reason the nights and morning following Jiu Jitsu class I felt like I was hungover.
Another fun fact about me is that twice a year I complete a 5-7 day fast in which I only take in water and salts. Once a year, I usually follow this fast with a special “ketogenic” diet due to its anti-inflammatory benefits (among other things). I do not bring this up to brag, but to mention that in the end of this May I entered into another fast and followed it up with the ketogenic protocol. I quickly shed about 6 pounds of fat from the fast, and my numbers in the weight room slowly diminished. I knew these were coming. What I didn’t expect was the subsequent decrease in my concussion symptoms. In fact, they left completely. I was still rolling 3 days a week with sparring but after class I felt great. I soon began to look at the research, and saw that in addition to the joints, skin, and gut, this anti-inflammation diet also operates in the brain.
I began to wonder if this diet would have the same impact on everyone with concussive symptoms. Obviously, I cannot answer this question, as every individual in unique, but I believe it is worth a try. I have followed the diet for multiple months now and have only experienced vast improvement in my brain’s function. For me, a ketogenic equates to a clear mind.
What is a ketogenic diet?
There are two types: the strict ketogenic, and the modified ketogenic. I follow and recommend the modified keto diet. Simply put, it is following a diet with the following macronutrient ratio:
Fat- 75% (75% of calories from fat)
Protein- 20-25% (20-25% of calories from fat)
Net Carbs- 0-5% (0-5% of calories from fat), this is total grams of carbs minus grams of fiber
Strict Keto macronutrient ratio:
For more info, here is a great resource: http://www.ketonutrition.org/
A day on the diet with Michael:
As a moderately active 180lb male trying to slowly cut weight, I eat 1800-2100 calories per day depending on activity. Here is an example:
Breakfast– Nothing but coffee and butter/MCT oil/Coconut oil. None of these kick you out of the fasted state, physiologically, and are keto friendly. I practice intermittent fasting.
- 100g raw bacon
- 5 cage free eggs
- 150g avocado
- salt and pepper
- 6oz crock pot chicken thigh with skin
- 1 cup sautéed kale
- 124g ground of grass-fed beef
- 15 hazelnuts
- 2 brazil nuts
Dessert– Keto Ice cream
- ½ can of Thai kitchen coconut milk
- 2 tbsp baking cocoa
- Stevia (to taste)
- 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 2 tbsp raw unsweetened coconut flakes
Total Calories: 2,086
Fat- 75% (adding in supplementary butter and MCT oil and depending on how much butter in the morning cup o’ Joe)
What Michael recommends to start:
I understand that this diet seems extreme and that many are afraid of fat, especially saturated. But with carbs low, this does not seem to be true based on the literature and my anecdotal experience.
To start, simply try out a daily fasting routing of 16 hours fasted (with a cup of coffee and MCT oil). See if this makes your brain feel good 30 minutes after drinking it. If it does, try a few weeks on the diet. Clinical research shows that the benefits increase with time. That is, the more time you are on the diet the more benefits you will experience. Personally, I felt a drastic difference in only a few weeks.
Keep kicking butt and improving!! If you try this and want to share your results, tweet me @happieheads.
*I am not a medical doctor and am not advertising this as an official medical treatment.