Columbia University–trained nutrition expert and author of The A-List Diet ($16.16, Amazon) Fred Pescatore, MD, has put a turbocharged twist on the popular keto diet that works so well, folks are losing 30, 40, even 65 pounds in 30 days. His secret: “I help people increase their amino acid intake while following simple keto guidelines. Amino acids are "building block" compounds, and they’re proven to stimulate the body to replace fat with lean muscle. They also significantly speed fat burning and metabolism.” Amino-boosting is especially effective after age 40, he says, adding that for keto dieters, “It’s often the difference between so-so results and amazing ones!”
So what exactly does Dr. Pescatore’s amino-boosted keto diet entail? As on a traditional keto plan, you’ll replace most of the carbs you consume with protein and healthy fat. “When you cut carbs keto-style, your body can no longer make enough blood sugar to fuel itself. It then enters a state of "ketosis" during which fat becomes its primary fuel,” he explains. “Studies show that ketosis helps most people lose weight — but it can come off quite slowly. To speed things up, you need to unleash the fat-burning powers of amino acids.”
Blast Fat Faster
Experts say we need 20 types of amino acids for optimal health, including 11 varieties we make on our own and nine varieties we can only get from protein-rich food. Aminos “are key to every metabolic process,” Dr. Pescatore says. “Yet few dieters get enough. So metabolism becomes sluggish, and the scale moves more slowly than it needs to.”
His fix? For starters, skip amino-deficient processed meat like bacon and bologna, and aim to get as much variety of high-quality protein as possible. “Every type of vegetarian protein, fish, poultry, and meat, contains a different profile of amino acids, and by mixing things up, you’re far more likely to cover all your bases,” he says. “For many people, simply switching up proteins will improve amino acid levels enough to speed weight loss” — but he doesn’t stop there!
BCAA Keto Boost
“Three amino acids are especially crucial to weight loss — leucine, isoleucine, and valine,” says Dr. Pescatore. Called branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, “they naturally stimulate the production of fat-burning hormones. Among my patients, supplementing with BCAAs has been key to shedding pounds like never before.”
Science backs him up. A University of Illinois study on women over 40 found that those getting extra BCAAs melted nearly 100 percent more fat than those getting the same calories but few BCAAs. And a study on seniors led by University of Alaska’s Robert Coker, PhD, found that shakes spiked with amino acids literally doubled the speed at which we burn fat. Add a little exercise and, per a French study, dieters supplementing with BCAAs can lose a whopping 17 percent of their body fat and 34 percent of their belly fat in just 19 days!
When Antonietta Vigliotti cut carbs on her own, she felt drained and cranky. Then a weight-loss coach recommended a keto diet with BCAA-rich drinks. “It gave me such an energy boost, I could work at my family’s restaurant until 11 pm and still feel like exercising afterward. I attribute that to the amino acids,” reports the New York mom, 48. “For the first time in my life, the weight was just falling off.” All told, she shed 152 pounds.
Then there’s Emily Frazer, who went keto after she saw friends lose big. The food lover started a Pinterest board of keto recipes. “I’d change up what I made for dinner almost every night,” she says. Then she read about adding amino-rich powder to her coffee and shakes. Once she tried it, “I wasn’t just burning fat, I was building lean muscle in place of the fat. I could feel myself getting firmer and stronger!” Shedding up to 18 pounds a month, the New York business owner, 43, is now 53 pounds slimmer and loving life on an amino-boosted keto diet. “The results are amazing, and you still get to eat really delicious food!”
BCAA Boosted Keto Diet Plan - Sample Day
At each meal, enjoy six to eight ounces of high-quality protein, unlimited non-starchy veggies, and one to two servings of healthy fat. Aim for varied protein sources and add a daily drink or supplement with about 4,500 milligrams total BCAAs. Snack on small amounts of foods used to make your meals. And as always, make sure to get your doctor’s okay to try any new diet or supplement.
Breakfast: Whisk 2 eggs, 1⁄2 cup whey protein powder, 6 Tbs. coconut milk, and 1 tsp. baking powder; prepare pancake-style in a griddle with coconut oil; top with sugar-free syrup and 1⁄2 cup berries.
Lunch: Enjoy a palm-sized serving of rotisserie chicken or any high-quality protein you like with a side of buttered steamed cauliflower rice and mixed side salad with full-fat dressing.
Amino Booster Drink: Get your daily dose of BCAAs in fun fruity flavors from an amino booster drink mix like this one from Optimum Nutrition ($30.88, Amazon).
Dinner: Enjoy a palm-sized serving of grass-fed steak plus a little seasoned fish or seafood with melted butter for dipping; add a side of green beans and jicama oven-roasted with olive oil.
Keto Cookie Recipe
- 1⁄3 cup unflavored whey protein powder
- 1⁄2 cup erythritol
- 1⁄4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup natural peanut butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Stir ingredients together until smooth.
- Spoon 18 mounds of dough onto a lined cookie sheet, then press each one with a wet fork to flatten it out to about 1⁄4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit 16 to 20 min., until slightly firm. Cool and enjoy.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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