Dear Mark: Gender and Retirement Mortality, Muscle-Sparing Keto, Freezing Keto Recipes, Net Carbs, and Carb Timing


For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering 5 questions from readers. First, are there differential mortality effects of mortality on men and women? What role do social networks play? Second, is ketosis muscle-sparing? Yes, and here’s why. Third, which of the recipes in Keto Reset can be made ahead of time and frozen? We’ve got some busy parents here, after all. For the fourth question, I clarify my stance on net carbs and whether or not to count vegetables. And last, I explain how is is not necessarily ought.

Let’s go:

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Sheila asked:

I noticed that the retirement paragraph was about men. I’m betting that women do better in retirement than men. Perhaps because women often have a better social network??

Great question. Turns out that you’re right—women suffer no hits to mortality with early retirement, whereas men do.

In one study of blue collar workers, each additional year of early retirement increased the risk of early death by 2.4 points in men. Women were unaffected.

You may also be correct about the effects of social networks in retirement. One study tracked a group of retirees with two social group memberships for 6 years. Those who retained both group memberships had a 2% chance of dying. Those who retained one group membership had a 5% chance of dying. Those who lost both group memberships had a 12% chance of dying.

I don’t have any research to cite, but from my extensive dealings with that segment of the population, I’d wager a guess that women are better at maintaining social networks. Just a hunch.

Pcskier followed up from last week:

So there is less risk of accessing lean tissue for energy when in a ketogenic state, since the body is ‘better’ at accessing fat stores and that becomes preferential to accessing muscle stores….?

Precisely. Ketosis evolved as a way to counter lean mass degradation during lean times. Lean mass—muscle, bone, connective tissue, organ—is essential for physiological function, resource acquisition, and general robustness. If the first thing your body starts to do after a half day without food is break down your muscles to convert into glucose, you won’t last very long and you won’t be very good at acquiring food.

Ketosis provides an alternative fuel to glucose. You’ll still need and make glucose, mainly for brain function, but the amount required is much lower than normal. A lower glucose demand means you can get by without eating so much and your body won’t be compelled to break down lean tissue to make it.

Meghan Shaw asked:

Hi Mark, First time caller, long time listener. Just finished reading Keto Reset. As a mom with two young kids I’m going to need to prepare a lot of stuff for the first 21 days in advance. Do you know how well the recipes in the book do if frozen after they are prepared?

Most of the main courses are very amenable to freezing. Many of the snacks and sauces and dressings, if not freezable, can be made ahead of time and stored for days to weeks.

The breakfasts and salads won’t freeze very well, but I don’t think most people expect foods from those categories to freeze well.

We’ll be offering a post in the coming weeks on making recipes freezer-friendly, so be on the lookout for that.

Finally, just curious as to how young? Kids as young as 2 or 3 can “help” around the house. You won’t want them wielding knives or flipping omelets, and they’ll probably make a bigger mess than you would otherwise, and it’s very likely that they’ll slow you down, but at least it keeps them occupied and participating, rather than screaming at you from another room to read the same book for the twentieth time. Get your kids involved in kitchen work as soon as possible.

April Lachlan asks:

The book mentions not counting some carbs such as those in leafy vegetables – do you have a list of items not to count – or is it just lettuce and kale? The book also advises to count all carbs and not calculate net carbs – but other info on primal blueprint mentions net carbs. I’m just looking for a bit of clarity on both of these points please.

Here’s how I see it.

Above-ground vegetables: ignore. They don’t count toward carb counts. You’re not carb loading with broccoli, nor will it knock you out of ketosis.

These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli leaves
  • Beet greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini and other summer squash
  • Olives
  • Leeks
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Scallions
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage

For other carb-containing foods, like fruits, starchy vegetables, winter squash, count the total carbs rather than net. Fiber’s great. Fiber doesn’t become glucose. This is all true. Still: count total carbs.

Do I think net carbs is a bogus concept? No. My aim is just to simplify things as much as possible. Having to count non-starchy vegetables and then also having to subtracting fiber from carbs every time you eat some butternut squash are unnecessary complications.

So I’m a liitle confused…, should we eat carbs within 2 hours after training or When Hunger Ensues Naturally (WHEN)?

If you’re trying to use dietary carbs to refill muscle glycogen, and you want to do so as efficiently as possible, eating them within 2 hours after training maximizes glycogen synthesis.

I’m not saying you should do it one way or the other. I was just explaining why some people might find it advantageous to eat carbs shortly after hard workouts. Physiologically, your body’s just better at turning those carbs into muscle glycogen in that time frame—and that means they don’t impact your ketogenic state.

Glycogen debt, once accrued, remains. You can pay it back at any time. There are just certain times and contexts where the payment goes through more quickly.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, be well, and leave a comment or question down below!

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