Doug Reynolds and Pam Devine are founders of Low Carb USA, a platform for scientists, entrepreneurs, and the medical community to share their research surrounding the low carbohydrate and ketogenic lifestyles. From conferences that anyone can attend to further their education, to an organization looking to change the way healthcare providers discuss low carbohydrate diets and implement them safely with their patients, Low Carb USA is making waves for the better and we for one are ready to ride them!
How did you first hear about the ketogenic diet?
Doug – I received an email in July 2015 promoting exogenous ketones, funnily enough. I was/am an avid distance runner but as I was getting into my later forties, I was putting on a little weight each year, my knees were really sore all the time and I was really struggling to run. I had recently stepped on the scale and was horrified to see that I was 35 lbs overweight. I felt like a slug, but I thought it was my fault because I was just getting lazy and not running enough. The subject of the email was ‘Ketones – an Alternative Source of Fuel to Glucose’. I didn’t even know what a ketone was, so I started to research it and found all this information about a ketogenic diet and, as I studied more, it explained all the issues I was having and even some of the problems I had back when I was fit and running 55-mile ultra-marathon races. So, after 3 weeks of research, I pulled the trigger and started a ketogenic diet. In 5 months, I lost the extra weight, the inflammation in my knees cleared up, my respiratory issues cleared up and I was now bouncing out of bed in the mornings and loving running again. An unexpected ‘side effect’ was that I noticed improvements in my cognitive function and the symptoms of the severe TBI I suffered in my early thirties.
Pam – As Doug explains, he spent a few weeks researching the ketogenic diet and its benefits by reading some great articles and books listed below. But when he was explaining the new lifestyle changes to me, he said: right, we’re going to the grocery store and here is the list. First of all, I was like wait a minute, you’ve made a list AND you’re going to the grocery store with me?!! Lol !! but then I read the list. Full fat cream, butter, meat, full fat Greek yogurt, some greens (never his favorite! Haha) olives, and nuts to start, oh and bacon! My initial gut reaction was, “Where are all of our nutrients going to come from? Will we have enough vitamins and minerals?” But I quickly learned the nutritional value of these foods and how this lifestyle works metabolically.
You have turned your passion and knowledge into a way to help others in the form of Low Carb USA. How did that come about?
Doug – I was sitting at dinner with Pam on my Birthday in January of 2016 and we were talking about the wonderful improvements we were both experiencing and about the fact that so few people know about it. I didn’t even know what a ketone was until six months before and I started talking about putting on a conference in San Diego to help teach anyone who would listen, but medical practitioners especially, that the carbohydrate reduction conversation was so important. I got up the next morning and just started writing to potential speakers about the idea. We established a website and social media presence, secured the speakers, sponsors, and a venue and put the first conference on in six months.
Pam – So after we’d been changing the way we’d eaten for about 2 or 3 months, we started wanting to learn more and more, and share more and more. Doug was on the phone long distance to his parents in South Africa, telling his Mom the changes we’d made, and she said, “Hey that sounds like The Tim Noakes Diet!” We couldn’t believe our ears! Doug’s mentor from his running days was doing this? We soon found much information about the banting movement. Doug found presentations that Prof Noakes had given down in South Africa through a conference that he helped put on, and ones in Australia at Low Carb Down Under. He also found a platform that Prof Noakes used that offered coaching and recipes. Next thing I knew he was applying to be a coach through the program. But they weren’t ready for international coaches yet. So we found ourselves talking about creating our own coaching platform so we could help people learn about the ketogenic diet without the pitfalls we had gone through. We were inspired by something Prof Noakes said, “We are changing how the world eats, one meal at a time” and asked ourselves how we could aid in that effort. So, by Jan 2016, we were contacting speakers, planning the build out of a new website, and quitting our jobs to do this full time.
From Low Carb USA a new exciting initiative has come about with the potential to help impact a great number of people. Tell us about the Standard of Care (SoC) initiative.
Doug – We are thrilled to announce the recent release of the first ever Clinical Guidelines for ‘The Prescription of Carbohydrate Restriction as a Therapeutic Intervention’. We have formed a board of advisers made up of experienced clinical practitioners and experts in the field to help us get this work done. Currently the advisory board for this effort consists of Prof. Tim Noakes, Dr. Gary Fettke, Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Georgia Ede, Dr. Bret Scher, Dr. Robert Cywes, Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Will Yancy, Franziska Spritzler, Dr. Laura Saslow, Dr. David Cavin and Dr. Brian Lenzkes. This first document is for general intervention and we’ll build on this with condition-specific guidelines. Publishing these guidelines is the first step in creating a Standard of Care for carbohydrate restriction.
The second step is the creation of a community of clinicians who practice this approach. It is this community and its shared training, experiences, and concerns that will, in time, establish the standard of care which, by definition is “providing health care in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time the health care is rendered.” The guidelines can help define the SoC but it comes from what a community of clinicians actually “do” in practise and is consensus based.
Pam – We partnered with Adele Hite, PhD, RD on this initiative. She worked with Dr. Eric Westman for many years and was doing her thesis in grad school while helping us engage with healthcare practitioners and put together our board of advisors.
How have other health care providers responded to the SoC initiative?
Doug – With great enthusiasm, but talk is cheap. To get them to adopt this new platform and actually participate and contribute will be our biggest mountain to climb.
Where do you see the ketogenic/low carb diet going in the next 5 years as far as acceptance in both the medical community and mainstream?
Doug – At our San Francisco conference I noted that the dietary guidelines, which dictate mainstream wisdom, is under such pressure not to change, financially and politically and from the pharmaceutical industry. We have no idea how long that is going to take and we can’t afford to wait for that to change before we start seeing changes in the medical community. With the SoC in place, I hope to see big changes in the medical community in 5 years.
Pam – Yes this is a movement from the ground up, so to speak, a patient driven movement, and one driven by healthcare practitioners who take the time to learn something new, something they weren’t taught in medical school. We’ve already seen big progress over the nearly 3 years we’ve been immersed in the science. Earlier this year, the ADA (American Diabetes Association) added a low carb diet as a medical nutrition therapy. Big step, but they are not broadcasting it and letting everyone know they have made changes.
For those looking to begin a ketogenic lifestyle, what tips and resources would you give them?
Pam – Here are a few things we wish we knew sooner. Peanuts and cashews are actually legumes (beans) and too high in carbs for most people following keto. We thought watermelon was a low carb fruit for the 1st summer, oops! 😉 So food lists are important and know what the ingredients are in everything you eat. Make sure you know what to avoid, things that will spike blood sugar and insulin. Your Keto-Mojo meter can help you sleuth those things out.
Doug, as someone that was very active (marathon and ultra-runner) how did your body adapt to the ketogenic diet as far as performance?
Doug – I feel like I can keep running now without the constant need to refuel with carbohydrates, so I don’t collapse. It’s very liberating but it’s the anti-inflammatory benefits I find to be the most profound. The level of stiffness and muscle pain after a hard effort is so much less and the recovery time is infinitely quicker.
What are your top 5 tips to living a ketogenic lifestyle?
- Make sure you eat enough fat
- Make sure you read the nutrition label of everything you put in your mouth
- Have a go-to, zero calorie ‘bridge’ like black coffee or unsweetened iced tea to sip on when your head tells you to snack between meals. Carry some emergency rations when you go out in case there are no low carb options.
- Don’t succumb to peer or family pressure when eating out. Embrace the lifestyle and be proud of the metabolic benefits you are experiencing.
- Feel sorry for those around you who are not experiencing the same benefits.
- Get enough sodium! And potassium and magnesium.
- Don’t fear fat!
- Eat something low carb before going to a social gathering, and/or bring your own food.
- Watch your sauces and salad dressings, there are hidden sugars and all commercial salad dressings have unwanted processed oils to avoid.
- But my biggest advice is – don’t wait to start based on the learning curve!! Changes will start occurring if one just starts doing the obvious – by cutting out sugar and starchy foods, even the so-called “healthy carbs” like sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, and bananas.
What is the most common misconception about the ketogenic diet you encounter? And how do you educate others on this?
Doug – The first thing that comes to mind is that eating all this fat is going to cause a huge build-up of cholesterol and subsequently a heart attack. I try to explain that there is zero science to support that notion and a huge amount of research showing it is not the case. I point them to awesome talks by Dr. David Diamond and Dr. Bret Scher.
Pam – We don’t just eat bacon! Seriously , there are many naysayers who don’t fully understand a low carb ketogenic lifestyle and there’s a lot of misinformation. We post a lot of research on our website and we encourage people to read the science so they understand facts from fiction.
For those interested in attending a ketogenic conference full of amazing guest speakers in both the medical and scientific community please check out future Low Carb USA event here.