by T.J. Murphy


In my two-weeks of restricting carb intake to below 50 grams per day—the well-formulated keto-adaptation protocol as suggested by experts like Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney—I’ve been playing around with how best to crank up ketone levels to the 2.0 millimolar range in the shortest amount of time. Here’s my thinking: If being in nutritional ketosis is good for the following:

  1. Predominantly burning body fat for energy and hence cultivating better body composition.
  2. Turning on autophagy (see below for a lecture on the topic) in the cells to burn out junky mitochondria and improve cellular resilience and energy flow.
  3. Other net positives of epigenetic gene expression triggered by ketosis. (as in this study:

Then ideally I need a fast way to crank up my ketosis numbers early in the day. Since I have two kids that wake up anywhere from 4:00am to 6:00am (and a special thanks to Daylight Savings Time on that one) it has to be short and to the point.

HIIT training fits the bill. An high-intensity-interval-workout will burn carbohydrate stores up and presumably the ensuing metabolic crisis helps boot up the ketone/fat-burning metabolism. So I want that, for sure, and also per the lectures I’ve listened to by Jeff Volek and PhD types who routinely study nutritional ketosis and exercise, by doing so over weeks and months, I will make efficiency gains in burning fat for fuel ad a wider range of exercise intensities.

In my personal experience over the past month, I’m convinced of the chief value that the ketogenic diet was supposed to bring forward: Body composition. Even though I’ve been training at most 30 minutes a day, training for the Spartan Virtual Challenge that I’ll be doing on Saturday: “400M RUN. 30 BURPEES. 4 ROUNDS”, I’ve dropped 10 pounds.

On days that have been particularly hectic, it’s been more like 10 minutes of training: Pull the car over near the town square in Stoneham, Mass., and do 100 burpees. It’s a no-frills workout for sure, but I generally stagger back to the car with a dose of HIIT. Three days ago I did 150 burpees in 15 minutes. Wham!

Starting the day early with HIIT before a toddler and baby wake up (as in the realm of 4 a.m.) is not immediately an attractive thought, but the results are. Combining a night fast with a cup of MCT-oil sweetened coffee and an HIIT workout should elevate my ketone levels into the 1.0 to 3.0 zone I want to spend as much of the day as I can in. And hey, it’s training for a Spartan race. Burpees at 4 a.m. seems pretty modern-day Spartan to me.

Here’s a good talk on the autophagy benefits of mixing intermittent fasting and HIIT exercise: