Why Ketosis is the Best Gift A Father Can Get for Father’s Day
I’m sitting here at my home-office desk, on this beautifully hot 118° Arizona afternoon, eating this luscious piece of ketogenic Key-Lime & Blue-Berry Cheese Cake that my wife made for Father’s Day . . . pondering all the reasons ketosis has been a blessing in my life, specifically as a father. As I sit, reason after reason popped into my mind.
“Hmmm, I should share these . . . Why aren’t you sharing them?” I mused. So, with the the sweet tart of blue-berry on my palate and with a wipe of whipped cream from the corner of my lip, my fingers begin to click away on the keyboard.
What makes a person a father?
Well, first, . . . Testosterone. I know. Leave it to a man to start with testosterone, but in the big picture, a man really isn’t a man if he doesn’t have a little extra testosterone, right? I mean, it was during the 5th week of embryonic development that my Y chromosome began signaling the differentiation of male fetal growth in-utero. And like every male, that same hormone testosterone continues to differentiate me from the human female counterpart throughout life.
Low testosterone has become a significant issue. 20-30% of the men in my practice suffer from some degree of suppression in testosterone when they first present in my office. In fact, you can’t watch late night TV any longer without being asked the question about low testosterone (Low ‘T’).
We know that the primary nutrient shown to affect testosterone to the greatest extent is fat. Studies reveal that diets low in fat are associated with lower testosterone compared to diets high in fat (1, 2). That begs the question, has 50 years of low fat diets made us less manly?
When did this become acceptable? And, does our diet of low fat have anything to do with it? I actually think it plays a role.
Testosterone is essential in providing energy, muscle mass & growth and actually keeping the waistline down. Adequate testosterone is one of the key components allowing the man to fill the father’s rolls of protector and provider, and if your diet doesn’t help stimulate its production, your less inclined to perform well in areas requiring its presence. That means that the bacon and eggs you crave in the morning lends toward your manliness, and the bagel and orange juice may be a little feminizing.
Fathers Need Muscles –
Second, father’s need muscles for all sorts of important things. It’s often Dad who carries the child on his shoulders, or lifts you above his head. It takes muscles for that.
We talked about the importance of testosterone in muscle development. That that’s not all. Many fathers can provide for their families specifically because of their ability to use that muscle. That’s not saying women can’t use muscle, too. I’m saying that a number of jobs that make our country function that require fitness, strength and muscle, like police, firefighters, construction, life-guards & delivery drivers. These jobs require muscle.
We now know that ketones, the primary fuel in a ketogenic diet, restrain muscle breakdown by decreasing leucine oxidation and preserving muscle mass (3). So, yes, visiting the donut shop actually does make you less manly by allowing the more rapid degradation of your muscles.
“Wasn’t it my muscles that first got your attention when we met and got this whole father thing started in the first place, honey?” I asked my wife in the kitchen.
“What?! No . . .” she responded.
“Oh, . . . never mind.”
Whether you have great muscles or not, you need energy for the muscles you have to fill your role as a father. Work requires energy. As fat is increasingly used as fuel instead of sugar, the liver breaks it down and produces ketone bodies, or ketones. The liver itself, doesn’t use the ketones, so they are taken up by the muscles and brain for fuel. Increased energy, mental clarity and suppression of inflammation are the key findings that are noticed while using fat as your primary fuel. What father couldn’t us a little more of that?
In fact, several studies report that fathers have the biggest impact on the overall fitness and on the overall weight of their children. It was found that the father’s, not the mother’s, total and percentage body fat was the best predictor of whether or not the couple’s daughters gained weight as they got older (4). All the more reason to keep your waistline under control, Dad.
Another fascinating study showed fathers’ (again, not the mothers’) body mass index is directly related to a child’s activity level (5).
Energy and muscle is essential for “rough housing” and there is science to prove that “rough housing” makes your kids awesome! Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini, in the book The Art of Roughhousing, has found that the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do. What is it about rough and tumble play that makes kids smarter? Well, a couple things.
Roughhousing makes your kids more resilient and resilience is a key in developing children’s intelligence. Resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them. Intellectual resilience that comes from energetic fathers helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they’ve mastered a topic.
Intelligence for You and Your Family –
Neuroscientists studying animal and human brains have found that bouts of rough-and-tumble play increase the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps increase neuron growth in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, logic, social intelligence and higher learning–skills necessary for academic success. We,also, now know that the brain that uses fat, or ketones, as it’s primary fuel recovers from injury and makes BDNF more effectively (6,7).
That rib-eye with steak butter your kids gave you for dinner is actually making you and them smarter and more resilient.
Overall Happiness –
The Harvard Grant Study completed in 1934, the longest longitudinal study ever done on the lives of men, found that a man’s father influenced his life in multiple ways exclusive to his relationship with his mother. Loving fathers imparted to their sons:
- Enhanced capacity to play
- Greater enjoyment of vacations
- Increased likelihood of being able to use humor as a healthy coping mechanism
- Better adjustment to, and contentment with, life after retirement
- Less anxiety and fewer physical and mental symptoms under stress in young adulthood
It should be noted that “it was not the men with poor mothering but the ones with poor fathering who were significantly more likely to have poor marriages over their lifetimes.” Men who lacked a positive relationship with their fathers were also “much more likely to call themselves pessimists and to report having trouble letting others get close” (8).
You, as a father, matter. And, being in ketosis makes you an even better father! Seriously.
When all is said and done, a man’s relationship with his father very significantly predicted his overall life satisfaction at age 75 — “a variable not even suggestively associated with the maternal relationship” (8).
So, back to my key-lime blue-berry cheese cake, my wife just made me a better husband and father. Thanks, Dear!!
- Hamalainen, E., H. Aldercreutz, P. Puska, and P. Pietinen. Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. J. Steroid Biochem. 20:459-464, 1984.
- Reed, M.J., R.W. Cheng, M. Simmonds, W. Richmond, and V.H.T. James. Dietary Lipids: an additional regulator of plasma levels of sex hormone binding globulin. J. Clin. Endocrin. Metab. 64:1083-1085, 1987.
- Nair KS, Welle SL, Halliday D, Cambell RG. Effect of β-hydroxybutyrate on whole-body leucine kinetics and fractional mixed skeletal muscle protein synthesis in humans. J Clin Invest. 1988;82:198–205.
Figueroa-Colon R, Arani RB, Goran MI, Weinsier RL. Paternal body fat is a longitudinal predictor of changes in body fat in premenarcheal girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):829-34.
Finn, Kevin et al. Factors associated with physical activity in preschool children. J of Ped., Vol 140, Issue 1, 81-85
Vizuete AF1, de Souza DF, Guerra MC, Batassini C, Dutra MF, Bernardi C, Costa AP, Gonçalves CA. Brain changes in BDNF and S100B induced by ketogenic diets in Wistar rats. Life Sci. 2013 May 20;92(17-19):923-8.
- Masino SA, Rho JM. Mechanisms of Ketogenic Diet Action. Jasper’s Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies [Internet]. 4th edition. Bethesda (MD): National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2012.
- Valliant GE. Triumphs of Excellence: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study. 1934