32.1 > The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Drs. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney

On April 1, 2012, Jeff S. Volek, and Stephen D. Phinney self published a companion book to their “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.” “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” focuses on Keto-adapted Athlete. 

I was particularly interested in this book since what drew me to the TNT Diet was the integration of Low Carb eating and exercise nutrition.  The first book led me to believe that Volek had moved away from TNT and/or that TNT – at least in its later phases – was not truly a Ketogenic eating plan.  The real question in my mind – what the hell does it matter?

From some of my prior posts, you have come to understand that I am particularly interested in Ketogenic Diets and the utilization of Ketones as an alternative energy source for the brain – since I have a family member who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  The person has been prescribed Axona, a medical food that is a Medium Chain Triglyceride which supposedly produces ketones.  Any information I can pick up on this subject – particularly when I look at the continually growing AD statistics.  What is in my future and are there life-style changes that I can implement now to forestall that possibility in my own future?

You really have to read both books to make up your own mind on this subject.  I can only give back what I read and what I could understand.  I am not a scientist and all of my high school teachers would agree with that conclusion.

So rolling up my sleeves and in no particular order – let me share some of the things I’ve learned.

[A] high carbohydrate diet also locks a person into dependency on carbohydrate as the dominant fuel source.” Once you have exhausted the ~2000 Calories of available glycogen (400-500 grams), your body can not instantly switch to fat burning.  The implications for marathon runners is self evident.  An elite athlete needs to find away around this limitation and the authors argue that the solution is a Ketogenic Diet.

Decrease carbohydrate availability, particularly for the brain, marks the central event resulting in a sharp decline in physical and mental performance (i.e., hitting the wall or bonking).”  When an athlete is adapted to burning fats, the athlete has >40,000 Calories of energy available during a race.

Ah – here’s the rub:  “Once the process of keto-adaptation is complete (which takes from a few weeks to a month), muscle both at rest and during exercise comes to rely heavily on fatty acids.  This adaptation of the muscle away from ketone use spares hepatic ketone production for use by other tissues, especially the brain.”  End result – if you want those ketones to be available to the brain and not used up by muscles – you need to be fully keto-adapted.  No half way – not here.

“‘Besides fuel, ketone bodies have been proposed to have multiple actions in the brain (e.g., providing substrates to help repair damaged neurons, altering membrane potential, etc.). These reported additional metabolic benefits of ketones have prompted a surge in studies of low carbohydrate diets to treat several neurologic disorders (e.g., seizures and Alzheimer’s disease).

If you eat a reduced carb diet of less than 150 grams but more than 50 grams, you body does not become Keto-adapted and you are starving your brain of both glucose and ketones.  End result – the body converts protein to glucose or – you go on a carb binge.

If you are Keto-adapted you don’t require post exercise glucose to refill your glycogen stores.  “Consuming even small amounts of carbohydrates after exercise rapidly decreases, the release of fatty acids from fat stores and oxidation of fat in the muscle. thereby interfering with keto-adaption, plus also diminishing the beneficial effect of exercise on insulin sensitivity and other cardio-metabolic risk markers.

Now there is the key point – post exercise glucose – which has a beneficial effect for those who are NOT Keto-adapted – has a negative effect on those who ARE Keto-adapted.

Now this concept hit me right in the Gut:  Over consuming protein can result in some of the extra amino acids being converted to glucose and raising insulin level thereby interfering with Ketone levels and decreasing fat burning.  How much protein? .6 to 1.0 grams per pound of Lean Body Mass.

“[A] little over half of the amino acids in protein are converted to glucose in the body, producing an anti-ketogenic effect.” 

Alanine: Exercise increases ketone production which will be “attenuated if carbohydrate is consumed after exercise,and completely blunted if high amounts of the amino acid alanine are ingested.  The anti-ketogenic nature of alanine ….”

I pulled out my container of ON Protein Powder and learned that it contains 1180 milligrams of Alanine.

Carbs will attenuate but Alanine will completely blunt ketone production

How much is a high amount?  Check your blood ketones and learn the truth since it is different for everyone.  This is the only Study I was able to find.

Medium Chain Triglycerides found in butter and coconut oil increase blood ketone levels. MCTs are not stored as fat but promptly oxidize in muscle cells or used by the liver to make ketones.  MCTs will result in Ketosis – even in the presence of Carbs.  2/3’s of the fat in coconut oil is MCTs.  Now you know why MCT is sold as an exercise supplement and why coconut oil is so popular in these circles.

They take the measurement of ketones to the next level.  Urine is unreliable so they recommend buying the blood testing equipment and testing yourself once a day until you are able to really see where your diet is taking you.  Why?  Each person is different and this is the only true way to tell.  Sorry guys – I am not ready for this.


From a personal perspective, before reading either of these two books, I had already become virtually a Plan A only guy.  I will have some Carbs – rarely and as I have mentioned – when they are top of the line – a True Carb Snob.  If I had a health issue that was front and center – such as diabetes – I would not be so cavalier.  I did not end up as a Plan A Guy based on any special reason – it just happened.  It is what my body settled into as its new Normal. 

Most importantly – I have learned that I am over eating protein.  Not by a huge amount – but enough to probably mess things up.  This focuses on the popular misconception that a Low Carb diet = High Protein diet.

I have also learned that I have more to learn about MCTs.

My only real negative – some product placement – not a lot – just enough to rankle me.



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bert
    May 05, 2012 @ 10:31:47

    Howdy; enjoy your site and this article. I’m considering buying this book because I love the subject and also really enjoy Volek’s stuff. But this is puzzling–here he seems to do a rapid reverse from his not-so-long-ago principles in the TNT Diet of “selective carb reloading,” where he espouses use of “brief binging” on carbs to replinish glycogen stores after basically being in ketosis.

    But in this review, you’re noting that he’s taking a clear stance that this is simply a bad approach–that if you’re in ketosis, you don’t want carbs anymore. It’s also hard to imagine ensuring you constantly stay in the under 50 carbs level, that if you go a little above (at least on a semi-regular basis), then you will be worse off energy-wise and functionally than if you were a fairly regular or even higher carb eater.

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me in light of such a change. That seems to call much of his prior research into question, after I’ve been on board with a good bit of it. Pretty frustrating at this stage.


    • TNT Man
      May 05, 2012 @ 21:36:44


      Thanks for dropping by. I fully understand the problem of getting our heads around their position. There is no mention of TNT and therefore no discussion of the differences. We are left to read tea leaves.

      There have been a numerous discussions on the MH TNT Forum about the problem of “bonking” and that you really can not use the TNT program for endurance events. Not being an endurance athelete – I never “got it” – now I do.

      Volek & Phinney’s position is simple – in order to be a Low Carb endurance athelete you have to be on a true – very strict – ketogenic diet. Not just Low Carb with some Carb re-loading but – all out Very Low Carb.

      I don’t know about you – it is beyond my ability. HOWEVER – I am not an endurance athelete – so WTF – it really does not apply to me.

      Read the 2nd book and let me know your thoughts.

      TNT Man


      • Bert
        May 06, 2012 @ 10:33:06

        Interesting thoughts, TNT Man, and thanks. I agree in that I too am not an endurance athlete in any sense. Couldn’t care less about that, to be frank (no offense to those that are despite the way it sounds). I, instead, focus more on continuing to gradually gain strength and look as good as possible doing it. So I’m going to have to see how the new book integrates with that goal.
        Thanks again. Good site!


  2. Bert
    May 05, 2012 @ 12:10:50

    I should add that re-reading and letting it sink in will probably clear certain cloudy thoughts. I know that Volek has a lot of strong stuff he’s researched over the years.


  3. Greg
    Oct 29, 2013 @ 23:04:18

    You guys can be cavalier, but you ought to try type 2, major back surgery, arthritic foot joints and still working on being an endurance athelete on the bike; with four days a week of serious gym work. I am just consuming my first knowledge of Ketogenic health and it is blowing my mind. Ever since my diagnosis of type 2 diabetes 15 years ago I’ve kept it under control; but have suffered greatly from the lack of appropriate fuel since I am low carb. The Ketogenic possibilities look like my way to a whole new level of life at a much higher level of atheletic capability and to boot; I can still keep the diabetes monster at bay. Thanks for the nice review of Volek/Phinney


    • TNT Man
      Oct 30, 2013 @ 05:51:56


      Thanks for dropping bye. Let us know how experience with a true ketogenic diet works out.

      Be well.
      TNT Man


  4. Golfer
    Jun 11, 2015 @ 17:53:37

    TNT Man,

    Regarding protein and the amino acid alanine…..

    1) Is a protein powder required or highly recommended for either pre/post exercise? I currently do not take one, but try to eat some protein immediately after exercise. If added, I would think it would be tough to stay under the 0.6-1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.

    2) Have you found any protein supplements that are free of Alanine (or at least contain a very minimal amount)?


    • TNT Man
      Jun 11, 2015 @ 20:43:14

      Golfer: I agree – the pre-post protein shake – can really overdo the protein if you are trying to maintain a Ketogenic diet. I limit mine to <20 with coffee pre workout then just have a regular breakfast.

      If you are exercising – then go with 1 gram per pound of lean body mass.

      Check out Isopure Low Carb – I believe it does not have added Alanine.


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