Please welcome Vanessa Spina, The Ketogenic Girl, host of the Optimal Protein podcast, and author of the best-seller Keto Essentials.
In this show, Vanessa, a high-performing expert in keto diets (especially in her modified high-protein version) opens up about her personal health journey and answers all the questions you’ve ever had about the keto diet, including perhaps the most popular one: how can I safely and reliably reduce excess body fat, without starving and having long-term, adverse effects?
Vanessa also opens up about being a vegetarian, being a leader in the early days of the keto movement, what made her realize that further results could be had from increasing protein, why sustainably sourced protein can be such a life-changing transformation for some people, and all about her new whey protein supplement. Finally, we hear some interesting insights about parenting and prioritizing time during your children’s formative years from Vanessa, who lives in Prague with her husband and son (and has another baby on the way), as well as how to use the keto diet as a tool, and how to design a long-term sustainable diet program for yourself.
Vanessa has journeyed from being a vegetarian to an expert on the keto diet while including the importance of protein for weight loss. [00:43]
As a world traveler, Vanessa points out that we are all so similar, no matter where you go, we all want the similar things. [04:20]
Not until she challenged herself to do high protein experiment, did she realize that her whole life, as a vegetarian, had resulted in her being under-muscled. [17:46]
Are you being more sustainable when you don’t eat red meat? [20:15]
When you consume a modified ketogenic diet with higher protein, you also get the appetite suppressing effects and satiety and the thermic effect of protein, which helps boost your metabolism as well. [26:26]
What are the appetite suppressing effects when you’re making ketones? [31:02]
The biggest issue with traditional ketogenic macros is it’s not optimal for building muscle.
It seems that 1.6 grams to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight is optimal. [36:51]
Females in particular seem to have been brainwashed to avoid eggs and red meats. How has Vanessa influenced that population? [41:49]
There is this concept of protein leverage where we will overeat on energy calories from carbs and fat until we get our protein needs met. [43:18]
You can have a natural wholesome whole foods diet even when you have budget concerns. [51:53]
Active athletes have a risk of under-fueling. It’s important to maintain stable blood sugar level. [53:56]
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Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life without taking ourselves too seriously. I’m Brad Kearns, New York Times bestselling author, former number three world-ranked professional triathlete and Guinness World Record Masters athlete. I connect with experts in diet, fitness, and personal growth, and deliver short breather shows where you get simple, actionable tips to improve your life right away. Let’s explore beyond the hype, hacks, shortcuts, and sciencey talk to laugh, have fun and appreciate the journey. It’s time to B.rad.
Listeners, please welcome Vanessa Spina, the ketogenic girl, the host of the Optimal Protein Podcast and author of the bestseller Keto Essentials. Vanessa is indeed a very high performing expert in the ketogenic diet, especially her modified version where it’s high protein or optimal protein, as she might say. And I think you’re gonna really love this show, especially when it comes to that, uh, age old challenging question of how can I safely and reliability reduce excess body fat without starving myself, without having long-term adverse effects?
And she talks about her journey from being a vegetarian and then going into this ketogenic space very early on where she became one of the leaders with her book and her podcast, and then realizing that further results could be had when she increased the protein intake. So you’re going to hear how to gain eight pounds of muscle and lose four to five pounds of body fat in 30 days without doing much exercise. It’s a phenomenal story. You’re gonna learn about the protein leverage theory and why it’s so important to prioritize protein in the diet and actually shoot high without those risks that we’ve been told about for so long, that consuming excess protein, uh, can adversely affect your health in different ways. I think that’s mostly for the disease paradigm and there’s probably a lot of people out there, including me and other high performing athletes and including a lot of females where we make the point that the typical female approach to losing weight is to eat more salads and start jogging.
And the typical male approach is to pump some heavy weights and eat more protein. And so she’s doing a great job getting the message out to possibly some resistant populations such as those people enthusiastic about plant-based eating the need to consume more, uh, sustainably sourced animal protein can be a life-changing dietary transformation. We also learned that Vanessa’s coming out with an extremely high quality whey protein isolate supplement. It’s so nice to know that other people are out there scrutinizing for the very best raw materials and the cleanest sources of protein without those nasty additives, artificial sweeteners and inferior quality. So I’m all about floating all boats higher, the B.rad Super Fuel and Vanessa’s new product called Tone Protein. And we’re also gonna get warmed up a little at the start with some interesting conversation about she and her husband ending up in Prague, Czech Republic and deciding to hang out there and raise their small boy there.
And another one coming very soon. Uh, she’s been a world traveler her whole life and has some interesting insights about parenting and prioritizing those wonderful formative years with the kids. So we warm up with a little Prague talk and then we get deep into the world of protein and how to use the ketogenic diet as a tool to drop excess body fat and then design a long-term sustainable program, the one and only Vanessa Sipna, Vanessa Spina, the ketogenic girl, the world famous host of the Optimal Protein Podcast. And I do mean world famous because it’s so great to make your connection all the way across the world. I would love for you to start out this, this rockin’ show by telling the listeners, uh, where, where I’m speaking to you from and also why random amazing <laugh>.
Yeah, so I’m currently in Prague and it’s funny ’cause most of my listeners and like community are all in the US and Canada, which is where we’re from. But we decided to move over here, um, a few years ago. We, I grew up internationally, so I’m was always moving around all around the world every few years. And so I kind of got, I think used to that tempo. But I also loved the travel. I loved living abroad. So I, when I was born, my parents were in Africa and then we went to China on two postings. And I spent a lot of my high school and younger years in Beijing, which was magical, enchanting amazing. It was before they did all the incredible transformation that they’ve done in the last 20, 30 years. So it was like living in a time capsule, a beautiful time to be there. And then we moved to the Philippines where I finished high school and then I moved back to Canada and my parents then moved to Europe. So I was always just used to that cadence of moving every few years. And then I met my husband who’s from Colorado, and we both,
where’s that? <laugh> <laugh>, you’re like, yeah, he’s Where are you from? Excuse me, Colorado. Yeah. I’ve never heard of it. Uh,
Yeah. Well, it’s funny ’cause when we first met, he gave me his business card. ’cause we met at like a, a finance conference, which I used to work in investing. And I, I had my securities license. So, uh, he gave me his card and it said Denver, Colorado. And I was was like, oh, that’s too bad. ’cause he’s really cute. Like, I guess we’re not gonna date, you know, <laugh>. And, uh, we somehow ended up making it, making it work, doing, you know, long distance for a while. And we just, both Vancouver and Denver were just not the right fit at the time. And we loved coming over to Prague. We were traveling over here for conferences, going to Switzerland, and we’d come over to Prague and we’re like, let’s just go to Prague for a year for fun. So we both have like online businesses and yeah, that one year turned into <laugh> several, and then we had our son Luca here, and now I’m, I’m pregnant again with a Baby due in a couple months. So, uh, we started to kind of settle here and it’s a amazing magical place to live. It’s also very much like a time capsule. We’re close to, you know, Germany and bordering with Germany and, and you know, Austria and Switzerland is really close by, so it’s really central Europe. But it’s a beautiful place, really magical place. And yeah, that’s kind of how we ended up over here.
And is it difficult to declare your intention to stick around the Czech Republic and have to go check some boxes in their forms and what, who knows what else?
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s not too hard because my husband actually has a Czech background, so, and I have a UK background. My mom is a British citizen, and so I’ve had a British passport for a while. So we both were able to like, be in Europe without any, any issue there. And, yeah, I think having a second passport can be really helpful with that.
Wow, that’s really cool. And it’s amazing to think now how possible that is today. So with you spending not a whole lot of formative years in the US do you have this reference point of our nasty consumerism overindulgent culture? Or do you have to like kind of learn about it from others?
No, I mean, I, so when I moved back to Canada to go to university, I lived in Vancouver for over 10 years and I, I definitely, you know, we were back and forth like between Canada and, and living overseas. So, it was definitely foreign to me at first when I first moved back, it was like a big contrast. But I think that I definitely got a taste of it <laugh> and got, got pulled into it myself, you know, for a while. And I think that it, it is very different like abroad compared to, you know, life in America. But I also have more of an expat experience, so I’m always kind of living in a bubble <laugh>, which is also interesting. But when you are like, they call it third culture kid, it is strange because when you are overseas, you don’t feel really at home.
You feel kind of like an alien. And then when you come back home, you also feel like really out of sorts and like, it takes a while to adjust to the culture. But I definitely experienced the culture and I think travel is just one of the best ways to learn about the world and, and learn about who we are as humans. You know, we’re all so similar no matter where you go, we all just want like similar things. We just wanna love and be loved and have families and like pursue our dreams and, and no matter how, you know, we tend to be influenced by media and everything. You, when you travel, you realize like, wow, we’re all really, really similar. And it gives you a different perspective, I think.
Yeah, I guess, you’ll have another decision coming up when your kids are of school age and is that gonna be you gonna stick around Prague for, uh, indefinitely or do you have other plans?
We don’t know. I think it’s been an amazing experience being here, but the hardest part is definitely missing friends and family. So I think we’re sort of evaluating as we go. And, in terms of school, we’re planning on homeschooling. We kind of feel like we’ve already started <laugh>, you know, we’ve got, you know, we’re always like teaching and learning things with Luca and we prioritize, Luca, our son, who’s now two and soon his, his brother. We prioritize them like above everything else. So we both spend most of our time with him <laugh> doing stuff like today, you know, going to the zoo and, and learning about the animals there. And, uh, we just got back from Greece and, you know, he’s traveled quite a bit already in the first year, which is another cool thing of being in Europe is like all these countries are so close by and easy to get to. So he is been to Greece a bunch of times and to Spain already, and like he knows all about the airplane and travel and I think it’s, it’s just one of the best ways to learn about, like I was saying about life in the world. So yeah, it’s, it’s tough though. I think that’s the hardest part is, is missing friends and family back home.
Well, I’m glad we had this little warmup conversation. <laugh>. I think we’ve got some important points, especially raising kids and it’s so easy to get overbooked and distracted and, uh, I’m speaking now on the other side of the podcast here. My kids are 25 and 23, so I’m pretty much done with those years of yeah, raising them and devoting all my time. But I realized at the time, in real time, like, these years will never be back. They’ll never be three and five again. Now they’re 23 and 25, and so to go all in and even being far away from family is not optimal, but at least you have like the fewer distractions of your own, where you can take your kid and, and spend the day at the zoo. And I can’t, I can’t think of a better day. And I think of a great way to end today is to start talking about protein and ways that people can lose excess body fat in a healthy manner and turn things around. And you’ve done such great work with, I guess, um, you can tell us about when Keto Essentials came out and when you launched your podcast and how you got into, got into the health scene now that we know how you got into the Prague scene.
<laugh>. Yeah, I would love to. So I was working in finance as I mentioned, and I enjoyed it. I really always liked finance and especially working in the stock market investing, I found it really exciting. But I didn’t find it very fulfilling at the end of the day because I just didn’t feel like what I was doing was really having much of an impact aside from maybe on people’s wallets. But I always was personally really interested in nutrition. I just didn’t think that science could be a path for me. And I started sort of as a hobby, just like posting and sharing about keto and how I was doing, you know, intermittent fasting and keto, and I was sharing different, like, recipes and there was just so much interest from people who wanted to know more about it as well.
And I ended up going back to school, back to university to study biomedical science and biochemistry for two years at the University of Toronto. And I just really wanted to understand science so that when I would see these sort of like heated debates online about gluconeogenesis or this or that, I could make up my own opinion in my own mind. Hmm. And it ended up really helping me in terms of the role that I do now. So my side hobby started to really take off to the point where I was making meal plans for people. And I, you know, was sort of creating this whole like, ketogenic role community and starting to build that. And I wrote my first book, Keto Essentials, and that came out in 2017, and it was an incredibly thrilling experience. I got to go on a book tour in the US and I went to like 10 different cities and gave talks and it was a really, really, I felt like a rockstar.
It was really amazing. But the timing was really great because keto was really taking off and people really had interest in it. But after going back to school, I realized that my first initial approach with keto was not optimal for the goals that I had, which were really building my body composition and recomposing my body to be as fit as possible. So I had had some good results with keto over, over several years, but I then decided to do this high protein experiment, which at the time everyone was like, don’t do it. You’re gonna, you know, your kidneys are gonna shut down and mm-hmm. You know, you’re gonna become acidic and whatever. Like, everyone was like, don’t, you know. So I, I decided to, I did it carnivore style, so I did it for a month and I was eating like 160 to 200 grams of protein after being vegetarian for most of my adult life.
Like that. It was such a reversal from the way that I ate for so long. And it was the first time in my life that I felt satisfied from my meals. I stopped thinking about food all the time, and my physique completely transformed. And I wasn’t really doing much exercise at the time because I was in school. And so I was mostly sitting at a desk and, you know, studying biochemical <laugh>, uh, you know, composition of different molecules and, and things. And I, I went back to get my body composition scan done, and I had lost a bunch of, of body fat, like way more than than ever doing traditional keto macros. I had gained eight pounds of lean mass and I was now 21% body fat, like in the athletic category from my initial start at like 38% body fat. So it was huge.
Um, and that’s when I felt like, okay, I really need to learn to understand protein. What is this magical macro <laugh>? What is it doing to my body? And, you know, how can I share about this, you know, more broadly? So I guess that’s around the time that I started the podcast. It actually initially was called Fast Keto that I think that was in 2018. So we’ve now had, um, I think close to 500 episodes and a couple of years ago I rebranded it to the, the Optimal Protein Podcast. And, it’s just been growing and growing since then. And it’s been amazing to get to interview some of the best minds in the scientific community who’ve, you know, really based their careers on studying protein, amino acid nutrition. And I’ve learned so much, you know, in doing it, I think, which is the best part of, of having a podcast. You just like get to learn so much from your guests.
Well, I also should say that you go deep, girl, so I know it’s called Ketogenic Girl with the smiling bubbly host on the thumbnail. But, uh, your, your grasp of the science and your ability to, to take in these, these really, um, high performing experts that are, that are deep into the research, you do a fantastic job. So you, you do know your stuff. I want people to go over there and, and pick up a few shows, especially, Don Lehman, who does a great job, <laugh>, you know, talking about the importance of protein. And I noticed he was on again recently. So yes, that’s the, um, that’s the plug for the show. But it sounds like you came from a, uh, a vegetarian, uh, sorta health conscious finance girl sitting at a desk all day looking at numbers and then like many early in the, in the movement, um, jumped into to the ketogenic diet in, in Quest for better health and perhaps better body composition. And, uh, so so you had some, you had some results, but this breakthrough didn’t come until you loaded up on the protein.
Yes, and it wasn’t until I challenged myself to do this high protein experiment that I realized that, you know, our perspective of what high protein is is really distorted because we have very low protein recommendations in terms of what we should be consuming every day that I learned we’re set during wartime rationing and are really just the basic bare minimum to avoid disease for people in terms of nitrogen balance. And it wasn’t until I challenged myself to do something I thought was scary, which was like consuming 160 to 200 grams of protein a day that I realized like I was under eating protein for most of my life. I was super unde-muscled. And so my body just like soaked up all those amino acids. And that’s how I gained all that lean mass without doing any exercise. It was just like, it needed it so badly because I definitely was not eating anywhere near the right amount of protein for my goals for so many years for, for most of my life before that. And I really, I think living in Vancouver as well, I kind of, and being at a, an impressionable age when I went to university, I really got like pulled into the plant-based narrative, you know, of like being so virtuous and, you know, feeling very virtuous, and ignoring a lot of the realities about plant-based lifestyles, which is that they’re not death or cruelty-free, even though I kind of, uh, like to think that, and I liked feeling that I was, you know, doing something
For the plan, that that’s pretty heavy the way you, your, your choice of words was perfect there because liking to think that, or liking to believe that you are making a difference, I’m not trying to discount that. I think it’s super important. It’s like when we purchase a a a Prius or a Tesla and because you’re driving around an electric car, you think you’re now have a clean footprint because there’s no smoke coming outta the pipe. But then we can do a, a few pages of research and find out that the battery that was made, um, was, you know, destroying the earth to, to get the resources to, to make it. And so there’s no, there’s no escaping from the consumerism and the, and, and the greenhouse footprint, but in specific terms of that that delusion that avoiding meat was, was greener and more sustainable than not.
Maybe it could give us a couple takeaway points. I try not to engage with people ’cause I don’t like to open up the, um, the debate, but now I’m trying to get a little better at, at, you know, arresting some of those initial basic assumptions that everyone thinks is just, oh, well, of course I’m, I’m, I’m more sustainable. ’cause I don’t eat, uh, red meat. I only eat chicken and fish. Oh, so you’re even more cruel to animals than you think. Anyway. What, what’s, uh, what’s some of your, um, quick takeaways?
I mean, I’m definitely not an expert in this space. There are so many people that could speak much more eloquently on it. I think that, first of all, just the point that you have this idea that you are living this like death free cruelty-free lifestyle is, is erroneous. Like we, there definitely is a lot of death involved in terms of like raising crops, and there’s also a cost to our environment. You know, what I’ve learned about regenerative farming is that, you know, it is an amazing way to keep our soil healthy and regenerate the earth that, you know, that the cows are grazing on. And we can support that more by voting with our dollars in terms of like supporting local ranchers and supporting, you know, meat that is coming from regenerative farms. I think that’s so helpful. And I was just very ignorant before, like I didn’t realize that, you know, my desire for, you know, eating mangoes and avocados in January made no sense because it was like all being trucked in from, you know, Mexico up to Vancouver and or flown in or, you know, however it’s done in, in Europe from Africa.
And it’s, that has a big, you know, impact on our environment as well in terms of, you know, the emissions. So I just think that there are ways that you can be selective about the way that you’re eating. It’s not gonna be perfect all the time. But, you know, I do think that human suffering is also important. <laugh> and I myself never felt good in my body when I was vegetarian and, and mostly plant-based. I had like raw vegan phases throughout that too. And I was suffering for many years. I think my mental health was suffering. I wasn’t getting the nutrients my body needed, so my physical health was suffering, and I was very confused and, and depressed and just not understanding like what I was doing wrong. Like, I’m not eating animals. Like why am I not like the picture of health? Mm-Hmm.
<affirmative>. And my naturopathic doctor who is vegetarian, told me to start eating animals. He was like, you need to eat animals, you need to eat protein and you need to get more protein. And so he told me to start with like poultry and fish. And I gradually, I started first with that, and then I gradually went back to consuming, like, animal foods. And it was, it was really hard, but my health only improved and continue to improve. And my suffering <laugh> went away. And I now live like a very full life where I think I’m able to contribute to society way more than when I was like very self-centered and not like feeling good in, in my body. So, um, I just think there’s lots of different aspects to it and it, it’s not just this like black and white thing that you’re either, you know, living a virtuous life or you’re not. Yeah. And, and it’s very hard for people who were plant-based, to let go of the guilt, uh, from eating animal foods, animal protein and animal sourced foods because we sort of get so brainwashed by all the mm-hmm <affirmative> propaganda about, you know, the animal industry. And, uh, it’s, it’s very hard for people to, to let go of it and even make the change to begin with. ’cause it’s like, it’s such a culture, it’s such a community that you’re a part of,
Right? We all wanna be part of something bigger and, and stand for something and walk our talk, and then all of a sudden you’re asked to, you know, shake up these fixed and rigid beliefs. And I appreciate that acknowledgement that it’s tough. But I also think it’s super important to reflect on how you said that you weren’t living your best life. So there were some human suffering involved. And I think the problem there is we don’t know personally that we’re at level five when we could be at level seven or we’re at level seven and we could be at level nine. And I’ve had a lot of, um, recalibrations with my dietary approach over the years, and it’s all in pursuit of the, maybe that I’m at level eight and I could be at level 9.5, but unless you try, unless you break free from some of these assumptions that, um, you know, uh, uh, red meat is evil, so you’re never gonna touch it because you’re so smart and you’ve studied so much, um, you know, maybe you shouldn’t, maybe you’ll, you won’t feel lousy every day at 2:00 PM or whatever things that you’re struggling with that seem normal.
And the norm is, especially today because look around and we have the fattest sickest population in the history of humanity when we’re talking about USA in particular. Sorry to, sorry to loop you in on that, but, um, you know, we’re not doing well here, so maybe we should listen more to, to experts. Speaking from Prague, <laugh> <laugh> Now with protein, uh, you, you mentioned that, uh, familiar, uh, we, we call it the RDA sometimes and, um, people have somehow come to believe that that is recommended daily allowance, meaning this is the recommendation for health, but it’s really the recommendation for survival. So I think that was one element of the widespread under consumption of protein decades long. But there are some other ones too. And some of them leaked into the, the ketogenic dogma because we were told that if we so much has bumped up our protein a little, we would get spun out of ketosis and, and kicked out of the the ketogenic cool club.
Yes. So this is one of my favorite topics. So the lifestyle that I follow now is a modified ketogenic diets. So, uh, one thing that a lot of people don’t sort of realize is there is a big difference there. So traditional keto macros are, great I think for people who wanna first make the metabolic switch and train their body to burn more fat. It’s also great for medical ketosis if you’re using it to treat a certain condition, which ketogenic diets can be helpful for. But for people who just wanna lose some fat and shore up their muscle or their lean mass, it’s really not the best macronutrient split, especially not for building muscle. So, one of my favorite researchers, Dr. Eric Kossoff, he actually discovered that there’s this modified macros to keto where your protein is closer to 35% instead of 15%. Your carbs are between five to 10 instead of zero to five, and fat is closer to 65% instead of 85.
And some of that fat can come from your body fat. It’s not all dietary fat. So if your goal is to lose fat, you know, you wanna create some kind of caloric deficit. And ketogenic diets can be really helpful for that because of the appetite suppressing effect of ketones. But when you consume a modified ketogenic diet with higher protein, you also get the appetite suppressing effects and satiety and the thermic effect of protein, which really helps boost your metabolism as well. And it’s just a great way to help you recompose your body much more effectively. ’cause if you pair that with resistance training, you’re also going to be helping your body to build muscle, which helps amp up your glucose disposal. And so you can eat more carbohydrate, eat more healthy carbs or, or unhealthy carbs, whatever <laugh>, you know, you want, um, that, that to be composed of.
But it’s sort of a lesser known approach. when people think of keto, they always think high fat. Um, but my diet looks much more similar to like a sort of paleo Mediterranean, uh, diet. And my fats mostly come in from olive oil and healthy fats, um, that I add to, you know, roasted vegetables or salads or make salad dressing with olive oil or MCT oil, which is really rich in polyphenols. The MCT oil helps, you know, boost ketones and you can eat a lot of healthy whole carbs. Uh, as long as you’re eating whole foods, then you’re gonna be getting more fiber and you’re also gonna be, you know, keeping the total carb count lower. But if your goal is to lose some fat, then some of that 65% of the fat intake can come from your stored body fats. That’s the whole, the whole point sort of of middle known fat <laugh>.
Yeah. Is that, you know, there’s people in the ketogenic community who will argue that the only way to lose weight is to get into ketosis. Hmm. And you know, I think there are some unicorns out there, <laugh> who, you know, get into ketosis and they eat all the fat and they do lose weight, usually it’s because they’re coming from a super high process like standard American diet where they’re eating over 300 grams of carbs. So making that metabolic switch provides a small metabolic advantage, but most of the time they’re actually eating less than they realize because of the appetite suppressing effects of ketones. So it can be a great tool to, you know, help you recompose your body, but this modified ketogenic diet with higher protein is something like you said, that a lot of people fear because they’re worried that if they eat more protein, their glucose is going to spike, their insulin is going to spike and they’re not going to lose weight.
But when it comes to weight, we really have to understand there’s a big difference between high quality weight loss, and that is when you lose weight, it’s mostly coming from fat and you’re keeping all of your muscle. Whereas people who do low calorie high carb diets, they tend to lose upwards of 40% of the weight loss they see on the scale is lean body mass. And the older you get <laugh>, the more important it is to maintain your lean mass because it’s much harder to put on new muscle and maintain the muscle that you have. And that is your, you know, metabolic, you know, bank account. As you grow older, you want to have as much lean mass as possible.
Can you tell us what the, the thermogenic effect of protein means and then also the, the appetite suppressing effects when you’re making ketones, how that works?
Yeah, I would love to. So the thermic effective food is a big part of your total metabolic rates. So your metabolic rates made up of four different components, and one of them is the thermic effective food, which is how much energy is burned when you are breaking down protein. Now, for a long time people believed that you get this high thermic effect from protein, which is somewhere between 20 to 30% of the calories you consume in the form of protein are just burned off and breaking it down that it’s from the breakdown and absorption of the amino acids. But one of my favorite scientists who you invoked earlier, Dr. Don Layman, as well as some other scientists, believe that it’s actually not just from breaking down the protein and absorbing it, but it’s from triggering the process of muscle protein synthesis whereby your body is making new protein, making new muscle, and it’s the a TP or the energetic needs that it places the sort of that a TP demand from muscle protein synthesis that is helping you, your body to burn more calories.
So they like Dr. Layman has done research where they had, you know, rodents consume high protein meals, and he said eating a high protein meal is equivalent to going for an hour run in terms of the calorie burn that you get from that. Which I think is really remarkable, and I kind of want everyone to know, like if you are eating high protein meals, you know, you’re also getting your cardio in, like, you’re, you could lose, you know, two to 300 calories at that meal just from breaking down. You know, the, either the protein, the second highest thermic effect is carbohydrates, especially if it’s in the whole food form. And fat doesn’t really have very much of a, a thermic effect has a slight one, but if you’re prioritizing protein at your meals, then you’re gonna be burning calories as you do it.
And so the, you get the appetite suppressing effects from the protein, which, you know, everyone is buzzing right now about, you know, semi glutide, these peptide, you know, weight loss drugs. But the main thing that semi glut is doing is acting as a GLP one agonist, which is glucagon-like peptide one, which we release in the body, has a really short half-life, about two minutes, but semiglutides has a half-life of seven days. So people are taking semiglutides to get the effects of glucagon-like peptide one. What has that effect on the body eating protein? So when you eat protein, you prioritize protein, your gut releases GLP one, and it gives you a really high appetite suppressing effect. You also have peptide Y-Y-C-C-K and other hormones in the brain that make you feel satiated because protein has the essential amino acids that we have to get from our, our food source.
Now ketones also have an amazing appetite suppressing effect, and this is where they really shine, is when people are doing caloric restriction or they’re doing a diet and they want to lose fat. Typically when people do that in sort of a high carb mode, it feels like a struggle. It’s difficult. Mm-Hmm. Because you feel the blood sugar highs and lows so much when you’re eating high carb. When you are doing a lower carb, carb restricted approach, you actually will make the metabolic switch where you switch from primarily burning glucose to primarily burning fat for fuel. And in making that metabolic switch, you also convert some of the stored fat on your body and dietary fat into ketones. And the reason your body does that is because ketones are able to cross the blood-brain barrier because they’re these tiny pieces of fat that your liver generates from fat.
So it provides an alternative energy source for the brain. And those tiny little pieces of fat also have an appetite suppressing effect because when your blood sugar then starts to go down, ketones are inversely correlated. So normally you would have low blood sugar and you’d be like, I need to eat. I don’t feel good <laugh>, my blood sugar’s dropping right now. But now you have blood sugar dropping and ketones going up so you don’t feel the blood sugar lows and you’re able to sustain like a cut or doing some, you know, a temporary phase of caloric restriction with the objective of losing some fat much more easily. So it, you kind of get that compounded effect when you prioritize protein and you have the ketones.
So with the traditional ketogenic approach and that recommendation to keep protein down in the neighborhood of 0.6, 0.7 grams per pound of lean mass, which I think is the consensus when we were doing our book research and looking at 20 different recommendations, so somewhere around there, but when I say 0.6 to 0.7 per gram pound per grams per pound of lean mass, so we’re taking off body fat. So for most people, we’re talking about, um, 20, 30, 40 pounds below your total body weight. And then you just said at the start of the show, you yourself a small female are consuming 160 to 200 grams of protein per day. So that
Might, that was just in my high protein experiment. Okay.
Right. So now, uh, where’s your where’s your intake land? And then also answer the question, why were we so constrained with the traditional ketogenic approach to the extent that it was potentially risky to be under consuming protein and causing some metabolic conditions that aren’t favorable?
Yeah, I think that’s sort of the biggest issue with traditional ketogenic macros is it’s not optimal for building muscle. And so for that reason, I don’t think it’s optimal for children, you know, who are going through a lot of growth. Like children need a lot of protein. So I much prefer the modified ketogenic approach, whereby you can still get ketones and there’s other ways that you can also get higher ketones, like if you supplement with MCT oil and, and that kind of thing. But where I like to land on protein recommendations is about one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. So if you get a body composition scan done, which I recommend everyone do if they’re on any kind of body recomposition journey, because you really want to know what your body’s made of, like how much fat do I have, how much lean mass do I have, and how strong are my bones?
And I think it’s something that should be prescribed. Like you should get an annual body composition scan with your bone scan, like it’s the same machine. So why not also assess that instead of using like this archaic BMI, which makes no sense for anyone who has like lean, like a lot of lean mass. So people who tend to carry a lot of muscle, like they’ll show up as overweight or obese even on BMI, it makes no sense. So if you get a body composition scan, you’ll know what your body fat percentage is and you’ll also find out what your lean body mass is. So you can use that as a target for like one gram of, of protein per pound of lean body mass, or you can use your goal weight. So if you know which weight, body weight and pounds you feel best at, you could use one gram, you know, for that.
And the, the research has shown that like 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram body weight up to 2.2 is optimal. If you’re on the more sedentary side, then that’s 1.6 that looks like about 0.8 grams of protein per like total body weight in pounds <laugh> up to one gram of protein per total body weight and pounds. And that’s if you’re doing resistance training and you’re like sort of more an athlete. So, but to keep it simple, you know, if say you have a body composition scan and you find out that you have a hundred pounds of lean body mass, so then your target would be a hundred grams of protein per day. And that would be I think one of the ways to get in an optimal protein amount in. And I think those are, those are pretty simple, relatively easy for people to, to remember. When you get a body composition scan, then you also find out what your metabolic rate is, which is really helpful too. ’cause you can find out like what your maintenance calories is and you know how much of a deficit you can have based on that based on your activity levels. And sorry, what was the second part?
Oh, I think you, you, you covered it and then when you decided to spin away and do this experiment, um, the results are almost, uh, almost unbelievable to you sit here and report that you gained eight pounds of muscle doing just a, you know, a a basic, uh, basic service of, uh, strength training. Not some crazy, I wasn’t cutting program, wasn’t doing any
Strength, I wasn’t doing
Training, you weren’t doing anything.
I was like sitting at my desk and studying biochemistry all day. <laugh>.
And how long was your protein high consumption experiment that you, that you really, uh, went up to 160 to 200 grams a day?
It was a month and I did it, you know, carnivore style ’cause it was the only way for me to get that much protein in a day. Um, ’cause I wasn’t using any shakes or anything like that. I was just eating like lots of animal protein.
Was it tough, were you making yourself consume yet another egg or another, uh, half a steak or something? Or was it, was it okay? It actually,
It was effortless for me. And I think that that comes back to my starting point, which is having under eaten protein for so long that
You were ravenous, it was like
I was, yeah, I was ravenous for protein after really barely eating it for years. Like I was, when I look back, like sometimes I’ll do like macros for what I was eating in a day, and it’s like, it was mostly carbs and fat. Like I, I just thought that that was a healthy way to eat. And you know, that is the narrative that’s out there. Like, as long as you’re not eating animal products, you are healthy and that food is healthy. And I, I hear it all the time, even from like other moms that I know, like they’ll, they’ll buy like a bear claw and give it to their child and be like, well, there’s no animal products in it, so it’s healthy. And I’m like, how do we get here? Like, and, and that it’s, it’s really scary to me how confused people are about macros and, and about that belief, because I know I thought that way too for so long. Right? And, and as long as it doesn’t have animal protein or doesn’t come from an animal, then it’s healthy, you know, like, wow, <laugh>,
I guess we got here in part with the high profit potential of the assortment of refined carbohydrates and the indulgent foods, combining refined carbs with processed fats. And, you know, the, the cost of, uh, of producing a bear claw, um, is, you know, uh, pretty tiny compared to there’s a profit when you’re selling a dozen eggs too. But, um, it seems like this is the stuff that we can pump out, same with any liquid calories like the soda world. And, it’s, you know, multinational corporations just stuffing this stuff down our throat. And, um, I like, you know, telling the story that you’re making a health conscious choice when you open up one of the a hundred energy bars for sale on the shelf at Whole Foods, rather than going and buying a dozen eggs. Yeah, it’s, it’s a, it’s a marketing triumph for sure. But, I appreciate your hard work, especially talking to maybe we could address the female population and how some of this brainwashing has, has filtered in, in particular to keep females away from those, those nasty foods like eggs and red meat that might indeed cause a, you gained eight pounds of muscle, but you also lost how much fat in that, in that month experiment,
It was somewhere between like four or five pounds
<laugh>. So I mean, the difference in your appearance must have been shocking. I mean, everywhere you went, people are like, Hey, what’s going on?
Yeah, It was huge. It was, it just made a huge difference. And also just like how I felt mm-Hmm. And like I was saying earlier in the podcast, like, I suddenly had all my mental energy back to go and live my life and do the things that I wanted to do and pursue my dreams, which is part of how I built my business. But I didn’t have that energy before because I was always thinking about food <laugh> because I was so undernourished. And then part of that at, you know, learning, I learned about the concept of protein leverage, which is one of my favorite concepts, you know, to share about, which is, you know, these two scientists, David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson. They were insect scientists, but they eventually did human studies on this. And they found that there’s this concept of protein leverage where we will, we will overeat on energy calories from carbs and fat until we get our protein needs met.
And so if we flip things and we get our protein needs met first, then we don’t have to overeat on the energy macros, the fat and carbs. And that was exactly what I was dealing with as like someone who was plant-based, is I was never getting the protein that I needed. And so I was constantly overeating the energy just to, for my body to try to get some more protein. It was like, you’re hungry, you’re hungry, go eat. Because I, it was like so desperate to get some amino acids in there. And so I woke up every day feeling starving. I went to bed at night feeling stuffed and still starving and still thinking about food. And the amount of energy that it takes up when you are living to eat like that is so all encompassing. And then when you get all that energy back, you’re like, oh, I can actually live now and like, I can just eat to live and I can go and pursue all my dreams.
And that, in terms of quality of life, it, it has such a big shift. And I just want, you know, every <laugh> everyone to know about the, you know, the power of protein leverage, because unfortunately so many of us are undereating protein. But you know, back to your question, you know, when women think of, of weight loss, we usually think of salads and running. And when men think of weight loss, they think, I gotta eat the weight protein and hit the weights. And it’s like so opposite of how women think. Like, I never understood when, when men would say stuff like that. I was like, what do you mean? Like, lift weights to lose fat? Like it just didn’t make any sense to me. And I, you know, started learning more about this stuff and I started looking around, like when I was at a steakhouse, it’s like all men in here, like there’s no women in the steakhouse.
Like it’s, it’s really rare for, you know, no pun intended for women to, you know, eat a lot of steak. And it’s, it’s like, it’s a go-to for men. Like, they get it. And, um, and then I started understanding like, why do, most of the men I know really don’t have a hard time like being lean And men are typically born with moral lean mass to begin with, but they know the secret. Like you just eat more protein and you lift weights. And women are just like, you know, trying to feel satisfied from these, you know, huge salads and, and it’s, it’s just such an unsatisfying weight and it, it’s a feeling like when you’re dieting that you’re just like always restricted, always deprived, and you’re like, you know, crossing off the days on the calendar, like waiting for this diet to end.
But when you, you start really shifting your mindset around all this, it becomes much easier to just eat like in a sustainable way all the time. Like, I feel like now I’m just effortlessly lean. And that’s something that I, like, never thought was possible for me. And like I said, I don’t think about food. I still enjoy eating. I love eating when I eat meals, but I don’t think about it outside of mealtime. And so, um, that’s just something that I never thought would be possible for me. And so it, it’s something that I just, like I said, I really want everyone to know and to understand,
I mean, going from never thinking it possible, I would argue that the other end of that scale is it’s truly the only way to sustain a healthy body composition for the long term is to put it into that effortless category where you’re not stressing and sweating. And by the way, turning on all these compensatory mechanisms if you are under consuming calories, especially protein. So, um, you know, if it feels like you’re, uh, you’ve tapped into a secret. A lot of people are communicating a similar approach and there’s still, uh, this tremendous resistance out there. And I’m wondering if some of the talking points that we’ve been hit with are derived from the disease paradigm and a disease population. So, you know, we’ve been warned you, you said at the outset of the show, you were worried that if you upped your protein, um, you would, uh, you would fry your kidneys and, and traumatize your liver.
And, and some of these notions that have been really, I’d say at times expressed by, um, you know, highly trained experts that are really, uh, convinced that, um, this is trouble. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna contend that they’re probably correct in someone who’s extremely metabolically damaged, which is the average person today. And there are some concerns with overfeeding. Dr. Layne Norton calls it energy toxicity in general, so Yep. Hey, there’s a lot of people out there that are eating too much fat, too much protein, and too many carbohydrates. So <laugh>, they’re gonna have all kinds of stuff coming up. But I think a lot of people are now backpedaling on the concerns about the dangers of consuming excess protein that somehow, that 30 days where you doubled your protein intake, um, is gonna, is gonna do anything to healthy liver and kidneys, except for help you put on eight pounds of muscle and lose four to five pounds of fat.
Yes. And it is the essential macronutrient, you know, and that’s something that, you know, needs to be communicated as well, is, you know, there are these nine essential amino acids. Some of them become conditionally essential during pregnancy that we cannot synthesize our ourselves, and we have to get that every single day. It’s a daily requirement. So, you know, you could argue that there are some essential fats, but the amount of essential fats we need is very small compared to the amount essential amino acids. And so we have to get these from our food. And if you don’t get, you know, even the other amino acids, you’re gonna compromise your ability to make the non-essential amino acids as well. So, you know, in terms of optimal health, optimal wellness, it is the macronutrient, it is the building blocks, you know, the way that we look at food.
We need to, you know, sort of reform our understanding. A protein is a building blocks when we consume it. We are consuming like biological material to make our cells, to make our hormones. Like so many hormones are peptide based, are made of protein enzymes, you know, most of our body outside of water and fat is protein, you know, so we need to get that every single day. And it’s really a shame that it is not more well understood how essential it is because our bodies can make glucose, like we can make it from a number of different substrates from our stored fat, which has, you know glycerol backbone to every fatty acid. We can make it from, you know, even from protein, we can make it from other substrates, but we cannot make those essential amino acids. And so, I think that there’s a lot of privilege that comes with the ability to consume a diet that has no animal source protein at all, whether it’s like animal protein itself, or derive from animals and be able to have a fully optimal healthy diet. You have to be able to afford expensive supplements. And you know, it, it really comes from a place of privilege where, uh, there are expectations placed on people that, you know, are going to be deficient in a lot of nutrients because animal protein is so nutrient dense, just from trying to keep up with this like plant-based narrative. And, uh, it’s really unfortunate. I kind of digressed <laugh> a little bit back into the
Oh, it’s a good point too. And, and it’s also a good point for the naysayers who contend that, um, eating the, the best grass fed filet mignon is, is prohibitively expensive, but you can believe me, people, you can get on a high protein diet on a very affordable budget, especially going to the farmer’s market and buying the pasture raised eggs. And we know that oily cold water fish is a good source, which are very affordable, and you can navigate your way around really nicely. So, the budget concerns, oh my goodness, there was a, a post on marks daily apple years ago where there’s a compare and contrast from someone who’s stopping by and getting a Slurpee at seven 11 and then ordering a pizza and then having some Ben and Jerry’s and the budget from that compared to, um, you know, having this wonderful, uh, natural wholesome whole foods diet, including well chosen animal foods, it was like, you know, it came outta wash at the end when you get rid of all that junk.
Absolutely. It’s so true. And people who say that this kind of diet is cost prohibitive, I mean, I always go back to ground beef,
And canned seafood, like canned salmon, canned sardines,
Ding, ding, ding. Winner winner, yeah.
And money to eat money leftover to go to the zoo with your kids. Yes,
Exactly. And organ meats are some of the most nutrient
Dense, also cheap.
I get tons of liver, you know, into our diet, like on an annual basis, and it is the most cheap thing that you could buy at most stores. You know, like just getting chicken livers or Turkey livers and making either frying that up with butter, putting, you know, making it into pate is super simple and, um, just so incredibly nutrient dense and so affordable. So, uh, that argument really, I think, falls flat when you look at, um, how affordable those kinds of foods can be. I think for people who are, you know, even, you know, struggling financially to be able to, to afford,
It’s kind of like the sustainability argument that you’re avoiding animal foods and thereby be a cleaner, more sustainable, more conscious human, it falls apart pretty quickly when you examine it. So as we, uh, try to wrap up here, I, I do wanna ask your opinion. We’ve talked a lot about how the Vanessa modified ketogenic diet can be a fantastic tool for a safe, reliable way to reduce excess body fat. But then if we’re looking at a long-term, uh, approach, I wonder what your opinion is for someone who, uh, wants to enjoy life, eat healthy foods, and even in my own personal case, be athletic and be high performing, whereby now if I’m looking at healthy body composition, healthy blood work, um, I’m gonna have a, a reinterpretation of the role of carbs in the diet whereby I’m not trying to find the easiest way to drop excess body fat. How do I navigate that for the future?
I think so with regards to athletes, I think there’s definitely a risk of under fueling, you know, if you are really active, you definitely have to make sure that you are providing enough fuel for all of those activities and rest and recovery. You know, a lot of people think that when we exercise is when we build muscles, but it’s actually in rest and recovery. And so part of that is adequate nourishment and making sure, you know, that we get our nutrient needs met and those go up, you know, the more athletic, the more active we are. So I think that’s, that’s something really key, you know, for people. And if, if we are active and we are moving a lot, then you know, you can actually like, sort of earn <laugh> those, those carbs like, I don’t really have an issue with, with carbs so much.
It’s more so for people who are either currently morbidly obese or obese or who are very sedentary, you know, carbohydrates and consuming a high amount of carbohydrates. It’s not that the carbs are gonna be turned into fat, it’s that the fat that you eat with those carbs is more likely to be stored because your body has a priority to oxidize the carbs. Same with with alcohol, like if you consume a lot of alcohol and you’re trying to lose fat, it’s going to be counterproductive because you’re gonna just store everything that you eat as your body prioritizes the metabolism of, of the alcohol. So, if it comes to athletes, I think, you know, making sure that you prioritize protein, making sure that you fuel yourself well so you have enough energy, calories, and, you know, hopefully most of those are coming from whole foods, um, whole food sources so that you’re getting all the nutrients.
Like I don’t either have an issue with processed foods once in a while, just as long as people know that they’re, uh, not as high in nutrients. And so, you know, you’re just not gonna be getting as much from those kinds of foods. But if you’re really active, you can definitely, you know, earn them and you’re, you’re gonna be able to dispose of all that, that glucose and everything. The only concern I have sometimes is that people are, you know, dealing with really large excursions in blood glucose. So, you know, if you like to track and monitor things, you w, continuous blood glucose monitor or just doing what I do, like pricking your finger or breathing into a, you know, tone device to check your ketones. Like, you can get a lot of feedback in terms of your response to the foods that you eat. And I think that’s, that’s really helpful too, is to maintain a stable blood sugar so that your mood and like your overall disposition is, is, you know, not negatively affected from like, having these big spikes, um, in blood glucose and insulin.
Right. it’s important and the folks at Nutri Sense, we, we both love what they’re doing. They make a point that we’re really tracking a few different things, and when you get a spike in glucose, you’re looking for that tight regulation back to baseline. Um, ’cause I, I’ve, I’ve encountered a lot of people who are just trying to avoid all spikes no matter what. And I’m like, no, when you go to the gym and you start pushing those weights around or get on that treadmill, you’re gonna want a freaking spike, otherwise you’re not gonna finish your workout. It’s just that healthy metabolic health is represented by that low overall standard deviation, like not too many Yes. Side trips, excursions, as you say. So we have the low standard deviation, we have the quick regulation to baseline, and then of course we have a healthy baseline or, or fasted number and um, you know, yeah,
That’s the most important number.
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, um, that’s a good way to look at the whole thing. And it occurs to me when you’re telling your, um, your tale of how you were waking up hungry and feeling not at your best because you were undernourished. That sounds like a pretty extreme case, but there’s probably a lot of occasions where we’re just a tiny bit, you know, under, on our protein in a chronic manner or perhaps a tiny bit under fueled as you make that great contention for the athlete. And that’s where, um, again, not knowing if we’re at level seven or level eight or level five, it’s important to kind of, I think, you know, surround yourself with healthy, nutritious food options and eat to your heart’s content knowing that you’re going to calibrate your appetite and satiety mechanisms when you choose healthy foods.
Yes. It, it, that’s such a great point. It really does help you to be able to sense when you’re full, um, when you are surrounded with easily accessible nutrient-dense foods. And it, I think it’s, it goes back to protein leverage. ’cause if you eat nutrient-dense foods, you’re gonna get the protein that your body needs. You’re gonna get the nutrients like the micronutrients that your body needs. And that’s going to have, I think, the most powerful effect on, on just knowing when to eat and when to stop <laugh> eating. And I, I think that’s, you know, really important for people. Sort of at the end of the day, as you’re winding down, you know, if you feel really satisfied ’cause you’ve eaten really nutrient dense meals, you’re not gonna feel like you have to snack throughout the evening. I have dinner and then I close my eating window. If anything, I have like a tea. But I feel great doing that. And, and again, that was unimaginable for me for years where like my eating would like really ramp up after dinner. Like that’s when, you know, being sedentary, sitting on a couch, I had the lowest amount of willpower and I just would like, just eat everything. And it, it’s, it’s not great for sleep, like rest and recovery, you know, it’s, it’s not great for achieving your goals or feeling healthy and fit. Yeah,
It’s not great for fertility and all those things that obviously you turned around. Good luck with your next kid. This is so exciting. Thank you’re some great work from Prague. Tell us about all the things you have going, if you’re watching on video people, you can see some of her tone devices on the back shelf, but you’re into red light therapy, you got the ketone breath meter, you got the protein. So let’s tell us how to connect, get on your podcast train and, and the interesting products that you’re putting out there.
Sure, I would love to. So my podcast is called the Optimal Protein Podcast and I interview a lot of protein experts on there each week and also just break down various studies and new research on protein and body composition. And I have a book I wrote Keto Essentials. I’m working on a second one, but <laugh> I’ve been having a lot of pregnancies lately. So, definitely working on that. But I’ve created some products in the past, several years that the main one is the tone device, um, which you can see behind me, which is a breath ketone analyzer. And it is really helpful if you are doing sort of low carb or keto to gauge your rate of fat burning as we are bodies are in the, at the highest rate of fat burning when we are in ketosis and making that metabolic switch.
So it’s a great way to get biofeedback the same way as like testing your blood sugar, or testing your, you know, blood ketones. But with breath, it’s much less invasive. It’s much less expensive. You make an investment in one device and then you can test an unlimited amount of times and you don’t have to puncture your finger every time. So, it’s a great way to get feedback on that. And I also have a line of red light therapy panels, which I feel very passionate about. Nutrient being, light being a nutrient, especially red light and supporting our mitochondria, which is really key to optimal health. And I am about to launch tone protein, which is my first foray into the supplement world and creating a protein supplement. I just found that so many on the market were not pure whey protein isolate.
We’re using concentrates, which can make people react ’cause it’s, it’s not pure, it’s got fat in it, it’s got lactose and casin, uh, a lot of artificial sweeteners and just a lot of fillers. So I wanted to create a really pure high performance product, and it’s scientifically optimized to help you build muscle the most efficient way possible with regards to, um, the addition of leucine, which is the amino acid that helps our bodies to trigger muscle protein synthesis. So really excited about that. You can find out about that and sign up for the list at Tone Protein can follow all of my various product lines and things at Ketogenic Girl or just at ketogenic girl on, uh, social media.
Vanessa Spina killing it as expected. <laugh>, thank you so much for the great work that you’re doing and I’m glad to make this connection across the world. We’ll see you, we’ll see you in person soon, someday. Thank you so much everybody for listening.
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
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