Article last updated: January 2020 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
You may have watched the latest vegan diet movie Gamechangers (which misrepresents data and has exaggerated claims) or watched the many YouTube channels that popped up recently about the carnivore all meat diet.
All these diets claim that they hold the secret key to health, vitality and longevity.
One thing the diets have in common is extremes.
Cut out all animal foods and you will be cured.
Cut out all plants and you will be cured.
For almost any type of diet you find, you will find studies supporting that diet.
You will also find studies that go against that diet.
The result of the studies usually depends on who funds those studies.
As a result, the studies are not that useful.
Therefore, the best you can do is to look at what the top health experts generally recommend.
After having a lung blood clot myself at age 26 (11 months ago) and nearly dying I spent over 40,000 USD on tests, bloodwork and consulting with the doctors in the best private hospital in my country along with studying all the top health experts online.
This consisted of multiple endocrinologists educated at top universities who worked with thousands of patients, neurologists, dietitians, naturopaths and cardiologists.
The general consensus for all these experts is that a healthy low carb high fat moderate protein diet is best for health and longevity.
It combines both the good parts of a plant based diet and a low carb diet into one.
It’s very restrictive in terms of food, but based on the data and knowledge we have available now, it’s the safest way to eat for optimal health.
To follow the safest diet for health, you want your diet to be be based around fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil and vegetables with red meat, shellfish and eggs being consumed occasionally or in small amounts.
Likewise, you can have some carbs with each meal if you have sufficient muscle mass and you’re active.
The bottom line is that sugar is bad for your cardiovascular health over the long-term and you have to earn your carbs.
With meat, eggs and shellfish it’s a bit more complicated because some people are sensitive to saturated fat and cholesterol while other people can live well into old age on a diet full of eggs, bacon and red meat therefore this is something that will depend on your genetics.
So why do I believe in a fish based keto diet for health restoration and overall health?
When I just got out of the hospital, I had problems with speaking and breathing and my blood pressure started to get high.
I was unable to exercise and during my worst time when I was hospitalized with dangerously high blood pressure, I could barely walk because I would get out of breath.
In addition, I’ve been hospitalized around 10-12 times with cardiovascular problems the last 2 years.
Just 8 weeks ago I had seizures where my whole body and face were shaking, my body was completely cold while face was hot and my systolic blood pressure was nearly 200 for 3 days straight.
We examined my whole body for neuroendocrine tumors, did lots of CT and MRI scans and blood tests and found no root cause.
The doctors didn’t understand how someone of my age and fitness levels can get a blood clot in the lungs in the first place — even with a genetic blood clot disorder it shouldn’t happen until older age.
Then my endocrinologist and naturopath doctors ordered a new test called M2PK tumor marker which tests the strength of your mitochondria and is a marker of colon cancer.
It came out twice as high as the normal range. (We did a colonscopy as well to rule out colon cancer and there is luckily no cancer).
As a result of this, my doctors said that all my symptoms right now (episodes of very high blood pressure, shaking, cold body temperature, speaking problems and breathing problems) are non specific, happen at random times without explainable reasons and impossible to explain with any medical disease, but we know that my mitochondria is very weakened and I have a family history of brain haemorrhage in early age, therefore the best course of action is to change the diet and lifestyle and dial in all my health markers as much as possible, while using blood pressure medicines if necessary.
I attempted the meat based keto diet, vegan diet and fish based keto diet under the supervision of my doctors to restore my health naturally.
The meat based keto diet greatly increased my LDL cholesterol and I consistently had problems with high blood pressure and speaking problems.
The vegan diet gave me problems with reactive hypoglycemia (after eating meals my blood sugar would dip to dangerously low levels instead of going up like in other people). At first my doctor thought I exercised so hard while under-eating on carbs so they ordered me to eat more carbs.
After increasing carbs through rice, the issue didn’t get better. In the end I was forcefeeding large amounts of rice with every meal.
Then we added in more carbs with some sugary biscuts around workouts. That’s when the problems really started and I got the seizures I mentioned above.
I had also previously tried the vegan diet (when I was fully healthy) and I felt great the first 3 weeks but after the honeymoon phase was over, I started losing muscle and felt terrible.
As a result, I know that a carb based vegan diet is definitely not a good diet for my health.
Then the endocrinologist and naturopath concluded that since I don’t deal well with carbs, cholesterol and saturated fat we should do a diet that’s mostly fish based keto with meat just one meal per week.
Finally, we decided to try fish based keto and it worked.
The last 7-8 weeks I have eaten mostly fish, nuts, avocados and vegetables and during this time my blood pressure and blood sugar have been perfect and my speaking and breathing problems have been gone.
During the last 2 years I have never gone more than 2 weeks without speaking problems therefore this is a real sign that I can get a consistent result with my health.
I’ve only been eating fresh home cooked, organic meals and the fish is caught the same day I eat it.
I’m finally able to train at a high intensity again and regaining my muscle mass and vitality.
This is the first time in around 2.5 years that I feel healthy again after endless nights where I was scared I would get a stroke when I had speaking or breathing problems and severe weakness.
Since switching to this diet, my cardiologist has taken me off all meds since all my markers and symptoms are improving greatly.
My health is finally restoring and I hope it continues this way.
This is why I’m currently a big proponent of a fish based keto diet for someone that wants to maximize their health in a safe way.
Does this mean that everyone should eat a fish based keto diet?
A fish based keto diet is the safest way to eat because it eliminates all the foods that can trigger problems with blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Excessive carbs and sugar eaten for a long time can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in all people and for some people this will happen as well with a high intake of cholesterol and saturated fats.
A fish based keto diet pretty much cuts out your ability to eat excessive carbs, sugar, cholesterol and saturated fat.
This let’s your body heal on its own, similarly to fasting.
When you take food away from the body, it can naturally heal itself.
Similarly, when you restrict trigger foods in the body, it can better heal as well.
With that said, if you can get away with eating high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats (your blood pressure and cholesterol remains normal while doing so), then there’s no need to cut out the meat, eggs and shellfish.
My advice is if you have a serious health problem such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or blood sugar problems (not just low testosterone) and you want to fix it, work with a great team of doctors (not a fitness professional) and get regular blood tests done of your health markers so you know that you are improving. Otherwise, you’re just guessing and any positive effect you’re getting might as well be a short-term placebo effect.
In addition, for some people, it’s not healthy to keep eating a diet that maximizes testosterone production because in my experience, boosting testosterone to maximum levels requires eating a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol.
When I ate a diet high in red meat and coconut oil, my testosterone production was nearly twice as much as it is now.
I had a testosterone level of 1105 NG/DL about a year ago before my lung blood clot compared to 682 NG/DL now.
Both values are great with the first one being super high and the second one being optimal.
But for maximizing mass and performance, you want high testosterone.
My sex drive and vitality and energy were endless when I consumed lots of red meat, eggs and coconut oil.
Furthermore, sugar and carbs are great for improving training performance and you can take both to increase workout duration.
I used to eat a huge amount of fruits and rice throughout the day, then have some quick sugar snack to get through my 2-3 hour daily full body training sessions when I trained for maximum growth.
This was in addition to consuming a lot of red meat, coconut oil and eggs.
I also have some of my hardgainer ectomorph clients force feed tablespoons of honey in addition to their meals to get in some easy Calories.
Is this healthy long-term? Definitely not.
Did it work? For sure. I could never have gained all that size and testosterone production if I didn’t force feed large amounts of nutritious foods while training full body everyday for 2-3 hours per day.
My point is that dieting for health and fitness/testosterone/performance are in many cases two different thing and both should be strategically implemented into your life for the best result.
We all want to get lean and muscular, but everything in life has a cost.
The key is to know when enough is enough and when to switch from fitness/testosterone/performance dieting to a healthy maintenance diet.
You can have the best of both worlds if you do it the right way. This is why you see that a lot of bodybuilders start their bodybuilding off with a diet high in red meat but later on their diet is mostly plant based with the protein coming from fish, chicken breast and turkey breast.
Red meat consists of connective tissue which is great for creating growth, but if health is your priority, you don’t want to constantly be growing (and at some point the ROI becomes low or non-existent).
Similarly, while milk is great for babies, you’re not supposed to be drinking milk all your life due to its estrogenic effects.
A testosterone boosting diet high in red meat is ideal for young guys below age 30 with no cholesterol or blood pressure issues.
When you have low testosterone at a young age, it’s a debilitating experience where you miss out on so many great life experiences and personal development because your energy levels, motivation and confidence are low.
By boosting testosterone fast, you rapidly improve your life quality and make much faster gains in your training.
Men with testosterone levels of 300-400 ng/dl on average live shorter and lower quality lives (these are the typical starting levels in most of my clients) and raising these levels to healthy levels will both improve life quality and lifespan.
You don’t have to go to the extreme and get levels as high as mine (1105 NG/DL) but instead aim fort an optimal 650 NG/DL-800 NG/DL.
Ideally, it will be used for just 3-5 years during a growth phase.
After 3 years of hard training you will have gained 80% of the muscle you can gain and after 5 years you’ve gained 95%. Getting that last 5% can take another 5 years and is not worth it.
If you’re above age 30, you want to go more towards the fish based keto diet I mentioned earlier and include red meat and eggs just a few times per week – if you are sensitive to saturated fat and cholesterol.
You can still gain muscle doing this because this is pretty much the way I recommend all my clients to eat unless they have severely low testosterone to start with. In that case, we use a more aggressive approach.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer