A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the High Fat Diet
Do you want an easy, effective, healthy, and convenient way of eating?
A way of eating that gives you clear mental focus, almost endless energy, and even helps you lose weight?
Well, then you sound like the perfect match for the high fat diet.
In this article I’ll explain to you what a high fat diet is, why it’s superior to other “diets”, why Jonas and I eat accordingly, and why I think you should probably give it a shot, too.
And I’ll even show you seven of our go-to meals which we heavily rely on most of the time.
Ready? Let’s start off with the basics the high fat diet…
What is a high fat diet anyway?
Not too complicated:
A high fat way of eating means that you consume most of your calories from healthy fats. In other words, you consume a high amount of fat.
This is in contrast to the modern western diet in which you consume a high amount of carbohydrates and very little fat.
- High fat diet: Most calories come from heathy fats such as meat, fish, nuts and seeds, and various oils.
- Modern western diet: Most calories come from carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, pasta, grains, fruits, and processed foods (which are pretty much all high in sugar).
Since you consume only few carbohydrates on a high fat diet some people also call it a low carb diet. In fact, the term low carb diet is more commonly used. Around here, however, we prefer to call it high fat. Why? Because the word “fat” has such a nice sound to it.
Anyway, what I wanted to point out:
- High fat = low carb
- Low fat = high carb
Later on we’ll see exactly how a high fat diet looks like in practice. You’ll see what kinds of foods and meals you’re consuming on a high fat diet.
But now, let’s look at why you would want to adapt a high fat diet in the first place.
The simplified theory behind high fat vs. low fat (make sure you GET THIS…)
Your body has 2 main fuel sources to create energy.
Your body can burn glucose (which comes from carbohydrates) and it can burn fats (in form of dietary fats or body fat).
- Glucose fuel: Comes from carbohydrate-rich foods
- Fat fuel: Comes from dietary fats or stored body fat
Most of the time your body burns a mix of glucose and fat to create energy. You might get 80% of your energy from glucose and 20% from fat. Or vice-versa. Or 50:50. Or whatever. It depends on what you’re eating.
If you’re eating a standard western diet then most of your energy comes from glucose. If you’re eating a high fat diet, most of your energy comes from dietary fats.
So what does it matter anyway if you get your energy from fats or from glucose?
The 3 Main Problems of Low Fat Diets
Here’s the deal:
There are 3 main problems with low fat diets… aka with heavily relying on glucose for energy:
1. You get hungry quickly and are forced to eat all day long.
Glucose is a fleeting energy source. You can’t store a lot of it in your body, which means you have to constantly refuel the tank. You may be full for 2-4 hours after a high carb meal, yet after those initial few hours your energy drops, you get hungry, and you need to refuel the tank. Basically you’re constantly hungry and are forced to eat all the time.
2. Your body un-learns to burn fat for energy.
Because your body is always using glucose for energy, it un-learns how to burn fat for energy effectively. It’s like the “fat-burning muscle” atrophies because it’s never used. This means you can’t burn much body fat, PLUS the fat you’re consuming is more likely stored because the body can’t burn it effectively. The end result is MORE body fat.
3. High-carbing leads to high blood sugar and high insulin levels (both TERRIBLE for your health!).
The process of consuming carbohydrates and burning glucose happens in four steps.
- Carbs are broken down into glucose.
- Glucose is released into the bloodstream where it’s called blood glucose or blood sugar.
- Blood glucose rises.
- Insulin is released to bring glucose into the cells where it can be used for energy.
The more carbs you consume on a regular basis, the higher your blood sugar and insulin levels will be. (That’s a wild oversimplification, but it’s mostly true.) High blood sugar and high insulin levels in turn lead to overweight, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and eventually type 2 diabetes. Apart from that they also harm your brain and make you dumber.
Let’s recap that:
Consuming a high carb diet (like the modern western diet) and heavily relying on glucose for your main energy source means you’ll be hungry quickly and often, you’ll store more body fat, and your blood sugar and insulin levels are chronically elevated which means you might eventually develop pre-diabetes or type-2-diabetes.
You’ve got to eat all the time, get hungry often, and over time get sicker and sicker and/or fatter and fatter.
How a High Fat Diet Takes Care of These 3 Problems
Consuming a high-fat diet looks and feels kinda like the opposite of a high carb diet:
1. Because the body re-learns how to burn fat for energy on a high fat diet, you have a stable, reliable, and almost endless energy source.
When your body can burn dietary fat from foods as well as your own body fat for energy, you rarely get hungry and are able to sustain high energy for hours and hours. (Here’s a HINT: You’re not carrying around all that body fat for fun. It’s stored energy and it’s there to be used if necessary!)
2. No blood sugar or insulin issues.
Carbohydrate consumption raises your blood sugar and insulin levels. Therefore, if you lower your carb intake on a high fat diet, you stabilize both blood sugar and insulin levels. This means you’re much healthier in general and prevent metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type-2-diabetes. (PLUS your brain works BETTER!)
3. Effortless weight loss if that’s of interest to you.
High-fat diets are very satiating and because both hunger and appetite go down, you automatically consume less calories and start burning more body fat. Hence, you lose weight.
So we’ve got stable and effortless energy, a better working brain, lowered risk for metabolic diseases, and even faster weight loss on a high fat diet. Doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? (Wait until we get to the benefits in the next part… it gets WAY better!)
IMPORTANT: Your body still can burn glucose for energy on a high fat diet. Too much blood glucose is toxic, so the body will always “get rid of it” by burning it for energy or storing it for later use.
High Fat Diet = Burning Both Fat AND Glucose For Energy
On a high fat diet your body enjoys metabolic flexibility. It can easily burn both glucose and fat and can readily choose between the two.
Let’s say you’re fat adapted (your body can burn fat for energy efficiently) and haven’t eaten for 4 hours. Your body has already burned through all the glucose and all the dietary fat. Now, because you’re fat adapted, your body can easily choose to burn some body fat for energy. You maintain high energy and don’t get hungry. Convenient, huh?
On a high-carb diet you would get hungry and tired right after burning through all the glucose. After all your body can’t effectively burn dietary fat or body fat (if you’re consuming too many carbs and too few fats)…
…so you get hungry and have to refuel again.
Hah! How lame is that!? (Ain’t nobody getting me back to that way of eating…)
Again, that example is grossly oversimplified, but you get the point.
Let’s get a little more into the specific benefits of consuming most of our calories from healthy fat.
Real-world BENEFITS of a
high fat diet (here’s why YOU should care…)
Before we look at the main benefits of a high fat diet, let’s dismiss the notion that a high fat intake is somehow unhealthy.
For decades fatty foods have WRONGLY been demonized and labeled as unhealthy or downright dangerous for your health.
Especially saturated fats have gone through a rough patch… being accused of causing high cholesterol and leading to heart disease.
Well, guess what!?
Recent research proves the EXACT opposite:
Saturated fats raise good HDL cholesterol and change bad LDL (small, dense) cholesterol into good LDL (large) cholesterol.
Here’s what you need to understand: Saturated fat does NOT cause heart disease. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest and most essential fats for the human body.
Soooo… with that B.S. out of our way, let’s look at 3 main benefits of a high fat eating style:
1. Stable energy that fuels high performance.
Let’s be real:
Carbs slow you down. For two reasons…
First, energy from carbs is quite unstable. First, your blood sugar spikes and so does your energy. Then, after a while blood sugar goes down and so does your energy.
Second, you get hungry quickly and have to refuel your tank often. If you’re hungry, your performance suffers, you can’t think clearly, and you are distracted. NOT optimal if you want to be as productive as possible.
Energy from fats on the other hand is stable and long-lasting. A perfect fit if you’re looking to get the most out of your day.
2. You get stable energy, are satiated for long periods of time, and rarely get hungry on a high fat diet.
This is highly convenient and allows for a very simple lifestyle.
Let me tell you… I used to believe in the “eat every 2-3hours” bullcrap and forced myself to choke down a small meal 5-6 times a day.
Ugh, how annoying is that?!
You can’t get any meaningful work done if you’re digesting all the time, have to think about the next meal, and have to stop what you’re doing to eat something.
Getting most of my energy from fats gives me tremendous freedom. Since I never get hungry or tired, I can choose to work or do anything else for as long as I want. I’m no longer a slave to my hunger or appetite. I have the ability to CHOOSE when to eat and what to do with my time.
3. It’s the healthiest way of eating according to the latest scientific research.
I don’t mean to bore you, but let’s look at some scientifically PROVEN health benefits.
A high fat diet lowers blood sugar, lowers insulin levels, lowers blood pressure, lowers triglycerides, increases healthy HDL cholesterol, transforms unhealthy LDL (small, dense) into healthy LDL (large) cholesterol, leads to almost effortless weight loss, and is easy to stick to.
Ok. Ok. Ok. I get it…
Those sure as fvck don’t sound like the AMAZING benefits I promised earlier.
But the above listed health markers do actually translate into some pretty nifty real-world benefits:
- BETTER cognitive function such as increased focus, better concentration, sharper memory, etc. (which leads to faster skill acquisition, better recall, easier learning, and more)
- Lowered risk for various diseases including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and more
- Almost effortless weight loss
- Fewer cravings and almost no hunger
- And most importantly: High, stable, and long-lasting energy (which translates into high performance and productivity all day long)
Does that sound FANTASTIC or what?!
And no, these are not my fantasies, but actually PROVEN benefits of a high fat, low carb style of eating.
If you want to see some of the science supporting these claims, check out this, this, this, and this.
A high fat diet makes you smarter, increases your energy, lowers your risk for various diseases, helps you stay focused and productive during the day, helps you lose weight, and even helps you live longer! Frankly, it just lets you perform at a higher overall level of performance…
If that doesn’t sound BADASS to you, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place here…
Now that you know why you should care and are hopefully eager to read on, let’s get back to some more theory. Yay!
(NOTE: Want some of the exact meals Jonas and I eat on a regular basis? No Problem! We've created a neat little PDF with 7 healthy and easy-to-prepare meals that you can download here. Of course they're all compliant with the high fat diet.)
How many carbs, fats, and proteins should I consume daily?
This varies depending on your individual physiology and your goals.
As a general guideline the macronutrient ratio will look somewhat like this:
- Carbohydrates: 5-30% of calories
On a high fat diet you generally consume somewhere between 50-150g of carbohydrates.
The lower end of the spectrum (50g) is usually best for overweight and not very active people. The higher end suits generally fit people who exercise a lot.
If you want to lose fat rapidly you can go below 50.
- Protein: 15-30% of calories
If you exercise a lot, have a lot of muscle mass, are trying to build more muscle mass, or are trying to lose weight, then you will want to consume more protein.
If you fall in any of these categories, then you can get somewhere between 100-200g of protein per day.
Otherwise somewhere in the range of 70g – 120g of protein per day is optimal.
- Fat: 50-80% of calories
The rest of your calories should come from healthy fats.
Depending on your energy output (your caloric needs) that will be more or less.
I wouldn’t worry about the exact number of grams of fat or calories from fat. The fats that make up the bulk of a proper high fat diet are incredibly healthy plus it’s hard to overeat on them.
Make sure that you do consume plenty of healthy fats. A low carb + low fat diet is seriously unhealthy. If you’re feeling low energy on a high fat diet, it’s probably because you’re not consuming enough fats.
If you want to be sure that you’re eating approximately the right amount of carbs, proteins, and fats, you can use a free tool like Fatsecret where you can log your daily food intake. It’ll give you the macronutrient breakdown and the amount of calories you consume.
Now, before we move on to the practical stuff, we have ONE last thing to cover…
Common side effects when switching from a modern western diet to a high fat diet
When you switch from a standard western diet to a high fat diet, your body needs time to adjust until it can efficiently burn fat for energy.
There are certain hormones and enzymes that need to be upregulated for the body to burn fat as your main source of energy.
This adaptation process can be harsh on your body in the first few days and the full adaptation may take a few weeks.
During the first few days of carbohydrate restriction certain side effects may appear. This is also known as the “low carb flu” and lasts usually 3-4 days. Symptoms include:
- Low energy
For most people these side effects are mild or don’t happen at all. It’s certainly nothing to worry about. Your body is just so used to burning mainly carbohydrates that it takes some time to get used to burning mainly fat for energy.
When you suffer from the low carb flu there are a few tricks you can use to get rid of the symptoms:
- Consume MORE healthy fats
- Drink a LOT of water
- Drastically increase your salt intake for a few days (drink some bone broth, add some salt to your water, or simply add more salt to your food)
Most people thrive on this high fat style of eating and feel better than ever once the initial adaptation period is over.
Alright, that’s about all I got for the theory.
Let’s now dive into how a high fat diet looks like in the real word. Let’s start off with the kind of foods to eat or avoid, and then we’ll look at a full day of eating a high-fat diet.
Foods to eat on a high fat diet
Not all fats are created equal and not all fats are healthy.
Highly processed fats are still unhealthy as fvck (like pretty much all processed foods) even if they have a high fat count.
To truly THRIVE on a high fat diet, get all the benefits we discussed earlier, and feel fvcking fantastic all the time, you want to consume natural foods that humans are genetically adapted to eating. Also, these foods should be minimally processed.
Here’s a list of the foods that make up the bulk of a healthy high-fat approach to eating:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, bison, pork, goose, duck, goat, turkey, chicken, etc.
- Seafood: Salmon, cod, anchovies, lobster, mussels, oysters, haddock, flounder, trout, tilapia, etc.
- Dairy: Raw grass-fed butter, full fat cheese, full fat yoghurt, full fat cream
- Eggs: Chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, emu, etc.
- Vegetables: Spinach, parsley, brussels sprouts, collards, cilantro, bok choy, celery, cucumber, artichokes, carrots, fennel, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Coconuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachos, pine nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc.
- Fats and oils: Grass-fed butter, clarified butter (ghee), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, lard and other animal fats, avocado oil, dark chocolate
- Spices and flavorings: Pink Himalayan salt, apple cider vinegar, rosemary, turmeric, lavender, thyme, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, cilantro, parsley, etc.
- Coffee and tea: Organic coffee, organic tea (green tea especially)
- Healthy sweeteners: Stevia, xylitol, erythritol
- Fruits*: Lemons, limes, berries, melons, peaches, apples, etc.
- Other healthy carbs*: Carrots, white rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter sqash, yams, quinoa, rutabaga, cassava
*Keep the carbohydrate content of these food groups in mind. Unless you’re a very active person, you probably don’t want or need to eat these foods on a daily basis.
Foods to AVOID on a high fat diet (and any other diet…)
To get the most out of a high fat diet, you want to ban high carb foods as well as any other unhealthy foods from your diet.
The list below contains all the foods that you want to AVOID if you’re looking to optimize your health, energy levels, productivity, and overall well-being.
- Sugar: Table sugar, soft drinks, fruit juices, ice cream, candy, and most processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, ascesulfame, sucralose, saccharin, and others (found in many processed foods!)
- Seed- and vegetable oils: Soybean-, corn-, cottonseed-, sunflower-, grapeseed-, safflower and canola oils
- Grains (including bread and pasta): Wheat, barley, rye, spelt, etc.
- Trans fats: “Hydrogenated” and/or “partially hydrogenated” oils (which may be found in margarine, seed and vegetable oils, and a variety of processed foods)
- “Low fat”, “zero fat”, and “diet” products: Certain dairy products, protein bars, cereals, crackers, etc.
- MOST processed foods: Anything that has more than 5 ingredients is probably NOT good for you
Alright, now that we know which foods to eat and which to avoid, we can look at how a full day of eating a healthy high fat diet can look like.
How a full day of eating high fat can look like (aka what I ate yesterday…)
Wonder what a complete day of eating high fat looks like?
Wonder no further…
…here’s a full day of eating. (it's almost EXACTLY what I ate yesterday.)
- Breakfast: BP Coffee
- Lunch: Grass-fed buffalo steak + a ton of steamed veggies
- Dinner: Some fried eggs + white rice + half an avocado
- Snacks: A handful of almonds, a whey protein shake, and some dark chocolate
It's Bulletproof Coffee for breakfast, grass-fed buffalo steak and a ton of steamed veggies for lunch, and some eggs + rice and half an avocado for dinner. (Oh, and some snacks as you can see below.)
I've added the fat/carb/protein breakdown so that you get an idea of the macronutrient content of these foods. (I've also included the calories... although I don't particularly care about those.)
Full Day of Eating Macronutrients and Calorie Breakdown
Grass-fed butter (2tbsp)
Coconut oil (2tbsp)
Cooked broccoli (150g)
Cooked cauliflower (150g)
Cooked carrots (50g)
Cooked celery (100g)
Cooked fennel (100g)
Extra virgin olive oil (2tbsp)
Grass-fed butter (30g)
Grass-fed steak (200g)
Coconut oil (1tbsp)
4 large eggs
Coconut oil (1tbsp)
White rice (105g)
Dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
Whey protein shake (20g)
Now look, you may not need to eat that much.
Or maybe you need to eat more.
The cool thing about consuming tons of healthy fats is that your body will kinda do the calorie counting for you. See, this way of eating is how humans have been eating for thousands of years. It’s what our bodies are meant to eat and because of that the body starts working in an optimal way.
This means your body controls your caloric intake through sending you hunger or appetite signals. One day you may eat too much, and the next day you’ll feel like you’re not hungry at all… that’s your body regulating your food intake for you. Convenient, huh?
Personally, I haven’t worried about calories in years. I let my body do that work for me. And so far it works very well. I feel better, stronger, and smarter on a high fat diet than EVER before.
Alright, now that you've seen a full day of eating a healthy high fat diet, let's look at some healthy snacking options. (Remember: You can download 7 of our go-to meals here.)
Some healthy snacks
Since your body can conveniently burn body fat in between meals, you probably won’t feel hungry between meals.
If you do get hungry, here are a few snack ideas that are healthy, taste decently, and are for the most part easily portable…
- A protein shake
- A low carb smoothie
- Full-fat yogurt
- An avocado
- Some olives
- Hard-boiled Eggs
- A handful of nuts
- Coffee or tea with some added butter and/or coconut oil
- Some cheese or meat
- Canned sardines with coconut oil
- Some dark chocolate (70% cacao or more)
- Celery, carrot, or bell pepper sticks with some nut butter
- Celery, carrot, or bell pepper sticks with guacamole (self-made, not the store-bought crap)
…mmmm some of them are actually really delicious.
(If you need more snack ideas, here’s an awesome compilation of 120 Keto Snacks)
Let’s wrap this thing up…
Adopting a high fat diet is one of the best ways to UPGRADE your body, your mind, and your overall well-being.
It’s a healthy, simple and easy-to-stick-to way of eating that gives you stable and long-lasting energy, lets you lose weight almost effortlessly, gives you clear mental focus, and a generally better working brain.
Frankly, it makes you perform BETTER at the game of life.
If you’ve got any follow-up questions, remarks, additional information, or experiences you want to share… or even if you just want to point out the mistakes I’ve made in this guide… make sure to leave a comment below.