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Kinder Keto: phasing your diet is the key to better health

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Phasing your diet is the key to better health and vitality

Phasing your diet is the key to better health and vitality, says Chalene Johnson

After the shocking discovery that she was on the fast track to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, health and fitness expert Chalene Johnson embarked on a three-year quest to find out why and how this happened. Her extensive research, together with a team of experts including registered dieticians, integrative and functional medical doctors and top researchers in metabolism and gut health, culminated in the 131 Method, a customizable nutritional plan involving ‘diet phasing’ that enabled Chalene to turn her health around and has now been tested by more than 50,000 people. 

Here, Chalene introduces the method and why it works.

Today, at 50, I have no brain fog, a regular cycle and none of the premenopausal symptoms I once experienced. Headaches are rare, as is bloating, soreness and fatigue. I never count calories or deprive myself of foods I want to eat. I’m consuming things I once thought I had to give up for good. 

The mystery of weight loss is gone. I now know what it feels like to effortlessly maintain my weight. I choose workouts that make me feel restored and strong. By eating more and exercising less, my body is getting better results. 

My cognitive function continues to improve, and I can’t say that I’ve ever had this much energy. My skin looks better and my body feels, well, young. I feel better today than I have in my entire life. 

And it’s thanks to the 131 Method.

It isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan with simplified rules or a universal list of what you can and cannot eat. With the 131 Method, you’ll understand what’s really going on in your body and how to take control of your health; then you’ll design a plan that fits your own unique lifestyle.

The 131 Method consists of three phases: Ignite, Nourish and Renew. In each phase you spend three weeks following a specific dietary approach, then you can either continue to follow the meal plan for one more week, or you can choose to fast and refuel to rest the gut, correct your appetite, and emotionally detach from food. By the end of the 12 weeks, you’ll learn how to apply the principles of the 131 Method to your life. 

Macrophasing: cross-training for your metabolism

Macrophasing is a lot like cross-training. To achieve optimal fitness results, top trainers know the importance of changing up routines to keep clients’ workouts exciting and push the body to use energy instead of storing it. By cycling different macronutrient ratios in specific amounts over a period of days, you teach your body to use the energy from foods you eat rather than storing it as fat. The result is improved metabolic flexibility. 

Each week of the Renew phase has three different stages or types of menus: Lean Green for two days, Carb Charge for two days and then Fat Burning for three days. How you organize those days each week is up to you. However, to comfortably transition into ketosis, be sure to finish strong with three consecutive days of Fat Burning ratios before starting a fast in week 4. 

LEAN GREEN 

For two days each week, eat meals high in protein, low in fat and low/moderate in carbohydrates along with plenty of vegetables. The macronutrient range I suggest is: 

10–15 percent fat 

30–50 percent protein 

20–40 percent carbohydrate 

Here’s how: 

• Eat lean proteins and lots of plants.

• Avoid excess fats. Remember that while many foods are high in protein, such as nuts and nut butters, they are also high in fat. 

• Use high-quality ingredients to fuel your tank. 

• When in doubt about the fat content of a food, check it on an app like MyFitnessPal. 

Meal ideas: 

• Smoothie with greens, berries such as blueberries or blackberries, and quality protein powder 

• Salad with lots of greens and non-starchy vegetables such as celery, mushrooms, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and more 

• Roasted cabbage or sautéed greens with protein of choice (such as baked chicken) 

• Low-carb coconut wraps (found in many health food stores and online) or lettuce wraps filled with greens and a protein.

CARB CHARGE 

For the next two days, eat high-carb, low-fat and moderate-protein foods. The ratio is as follows: 

15–20 percent fat 

15–25 percent protein 

55–70 percent carbohydrate 

Here’s how: 

• Choose healthy carbs that work for you and do not cause you digestive discomfort, bloating or an inflammatory response, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, rice, bananas, grapes and other fruits, legumes and gluten-free pastas. 

• Avoid foods that you know cause you inflammation. 

Meal ideas: 

• Oatmeal with berries 

• Low-carb soup like chili with sweet potato or beans added

 • Roasted vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, beets, carrots or squash of choice, and protein of choice with no extra fat added 

• Quinoa or rice salad with protein of choice. 

FAT BURNING 

For the next three days, eat low-carb, high-fat and moderate-protein foods. The ratio is as follows: 

70–80 percent fat 

15–20 percent protein 

5–10 percent carbohydrate 

Here’s how: 

• Emphasize foods low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats.

• Limit carb intake to green and non-starchy vegetables. 

• Choose high-quality protein and pasture-raised meats whenever possible. 

• Opt for higher-fat forms of quality meats and fish (such as grass-finished beef, wild-caught salmon). 

Meal ideas: 

• Eggs with avocado 

• High-fat smoothie with avocado and macadamia nuts 

• Salad with olives, olive oil dressing, chicken and low-carb vegetables such as cucumbers, bell peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and radishes. 

• Baked chicken with roasted cauliflower cooked in coconut oil, dunked in guacamole or macadamia hummus. 

 

Phase 1: Ignite

Ignite cranks up your metabolism and sets it on fire. Your body will go from sugar-burning to fat-burning mode, or ketosis, and learn to use stored body fat as fuel. 

On Ignite you’ll enjoy satisfying, delicious meals high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates. You’ll also learn how to use intermittent fasting to supercharge your fat-burning results and stabilize your appetite. You’ll eat foods that reduce inflammation, balance hormones and promote gut healing. 

Phase 2: Nourish

Nourish builds on the fat-burning foundation of Ignite while increasing your body’s ability to metabolize micronutrients found in whole foods and plants. You’ll gradually cut back on animal proteins and increase vegetables and plant-based healthy fats. 

Phase 3: Renew

Renew will teach you how to use fats, proteins and yes, even carbs for energy. It’s in Renew that your body will effectively use all macronutrients for energy, which is called macrophasing (see page 39). Macrophasing provides the ultimate approach to metabolic flexibility by changing or “phasing” your macronutrient ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fats every two to three days. 

With guidelines and recipes, you’ll design a meal plan to best suit your life. You’ll enjoy carbs, fats and proteins and experience the joy of a metabolism that works with you, not against you. 

How the diet works

Diet phasing is a key component of what makes the 131 Method work. Why? Homeostasis. 

Every function and every system of the body is meant to keep us alive. The body tunes in and accommodates subtle shifts in our nutrition, movement, sleep, stress levels and more to maintain internal stability, or homeostasis. 

Homeostasis refers to the body’s “set point,” the status (including weight) at which your body stubbornly wants to remain. While adaptation is our primitive brain’s way of keeping us alive, homeostasis can also keep us feeling fluffy, fat and frustrated. Regardless of what you eat, your body is programmed to figure out how to adjust energy expenditure and maintain the status quo. 

This is also why, regardless of the diet, many people experience initial weight loss. Homeostasis simply has not yet had a chance to take hold. You’re excited to buy smaller jeans and ready to become a lifetime member of whatever diet tribe you’ve just discovered. But when you stay on that diet for an extended period, what results is the natural process of homeostasis. You gain back all that weight—and probably more—as your body does what it was designed to do. 

To figure out how to hack this process, I turned to scientists who have studied how to avoid physical adaptation and plateaus. Their studies usually focused on changing exercise training protocols at regular intervals in top-performing athletes. This training approach is sometimes referred to as periodization, cross-training, cycle training or phasing. 

This approach has become widely accepted as the most effective way to obtain optimal physical results. The 131 Method applies the same biological principle in the form of diet phasing. 

Diet phasing is as old as human evolution. Scientists agree our Paleolithic ancestors thrived on completely different nutrients with each change of season. The changing availability of food and resources necessitated seasonal variation in the diet for basic survival. Using that knowledge and employing the right sequence of diet phasing helps your body avoid homeostasis. By changing things up, your metabolism doesn’t have time to adapt or slow down. The result is increased metabolic flexibility.

Metabolic flexibility is how we get the body “unstuck.” It’s the process by which we are able to use carbohydrates, fats and proteins effectively through a complex communication system in which nutrients are used or metabolized as energy rather than stored as fat. 

A flexible metabolism means that when you eat healthy fats, the body burns fat as fuel. Eat more carbs, and the body can return to using stored glucose (carbs) for fuel. The body is so smart, but it hasn’t evolved much in millennia. Diet phasing in the right sequence works with your biology to increase metabolic flexibility. 

Each phase of the 131 Method helps you efficiently improve your metabolism while simultaneously healing the gut. Diet phasing delivers so many benefits: hormone balance, freedom from obsessive dieting, balanced insulin sensitivities, increased metabolic flexibility, increased gut microbiome diversity, seasonal convenience and the freedom to eat a wide variety of foods.

To show you just how freeing the plan can be, try these delicious 131 Method recipes. 

Bacon quiche

If you prefer, use heavy cream instead of coconut milk for a more neutral flavor. 

Makes six servings

Ingredients

Crust:

Coconut oil cooking spray 

2 cups almond flour 

1 large egg 

2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted 

1 tsp fine sea salt  

Filling:

6 strips 100% grass-fed, pastured and nitrate-free bacon 

1½ cups (12 oz) canned full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream 

4 large organic eggs 

¼ tsp fine sea salt 

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

To make the crust: 

1) Heat the oven to 350˚F/177°C. Coat a 9-inch (23-cm) round pie plate with cooking spray. 

2) Whisk together the almond flour, egg, coconut oil and sea salt in a bowl until fully combined. 

3) Press the dough into the pie plate, pushing it evenly up the sides. 

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. 

To make the filling: 

1) Fry the bacon strips in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp on both sides. Put the bacon on paper towels and then, when cool enough to handle, blot well and crumble. 

2) Whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in three-fourths of the crumbled bacon. 

Pour the egg mixture into the baked crust and top with the remaining bacon. 

3) Bake for 35 to 38 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the eggs are set. Cover with aluminum foil if the crust begins to brown too much. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

 

Blender bread

Once baked and sliced, this gluten-free bread can be toasted for breakfast and sandwiches. It’s all put together in a blender, and you don’t have to wait for the bread to rise. 

Makes about 18 servings

Ingredients

Coconut oil cooking spray 

4 large organic eggs 

1 cup liquid organic egg whites 

1 cup natural roasted almond butter 

½ cup coconut flour 

2 Tbsp nondairy milk 

1½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar 

2 tsp baking soda 

8 drops liquid vanilla stevia 

¼ tsp sea salt

Method

1) Heat the oven to 325°F/163°C. Line a 9×5-inch (23×13 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with cooking oil. 

2) Place the eggs, egg whites and almond butter in a blender. Process on low, then turn up the speed to medium until the mixture is combined, about 1 minute. 

3) Add the coconut flour, milk, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, liquid stevia and salt and process for 20 seconds. 

4) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in several places comes out clean. 

5) Cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan and cool on the rack. 

 

Flaxseed-cinnamon muffins

When muffins are made with healthy ingredients, they contribute to your fat-burning goals. You can enjoy these with a cinnamon icing or an almond butter drizzle, or on their own if you prefer. It’s your program, so it’s all up to you. 

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

Muffins:

2 cups ground flaxseed 

½ cup Swerve Confectioners Sweetener

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon 

1 Tbsp aluminum-free baking powder 

½ teaspoon sea salt 

5 large organic eggs 

½ cup melted coconut oil or avocado oil 

2 tsp pure vanilla extract 

Cinnamon bun icing:

½ cup coconut butter 

2 tsp MCT oil 

2 Tbsp Swerve Confectioners Sweetener

1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

1 tsp ground cinnamon 

Almond butter drizzle:

2 Tbsp natural, salted almond butter 

2 Tbsp coconut oil 

2 Tbsp Swerve Confectioners Sweetener

Method

To make the muffins: 

1) Heat oven to 350˚F/177°C and line a 12-count muffin pan with paper liners. 

2) Whisk together the flaxseed, Swerve, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 

3) Place the eggs, coconut oil and vanilla in a blender with ½ cup room temperature water and blend on high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. 

3) Pour the egg mixture over the flaxseed mixture and stir well with a spatula just until incorporated. The batter will be fluffy. Let sit for 3 minutes. 

4) Divide the batter among the paper liners. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. 

5 Turn the muffins out on a rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. 

To make the icing: 

1) Place the coconut butter and MCT oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. 

2) Stir in the Swerve, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Use a knife to spread the icing on each muffin. 

To make the drizzle: 

1) Place the almond butter, coconut oil and Swerve in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds. Drizzle on top of each muffin.

 

Adapted from 131 Method by Chalene Johnson (Hay House, 2019)

 

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