Baker has been a controversial figure for his embracing a meat-only diet (no plants). Naturally, this has made him a favorite target of vegans, particularly youtubers. What makes him especially interesting is that he’s not just an athlete, but he’s actually setting a number of world records for his age class (over 50!) in athletic benchmarks.
Full disclosure: I now know a number of “carnivore” dieters like Amber O’Hearn who I consider friends. But I likewise have a number of vegan friends as well, many of whom I have worked with to improve their lipid numbers.
Throughout his time on this diet, Baker didn’t take any blood tests until just a couple months ago. This first round of tests were then revealed on the podcast and proved to be quite interesting. While there are a number of them that would be worth commenting on, those I want to focus on were about the energy metabolism (no surprise).
The Glucose and Insulin Labs
- HbA1c: 6.3
- Fasting Glucose: 126 mg/dL
- Fasting Insulin: 2.6 mIU/L
The A1c and fasting glucose are certainly consistent with someone who is prediabetic and likely on their way to full-blown Type 2. Well — that is — until you look at the fasting insulin. In what circumstance would you expect a high fasting glucose with a low fasting insulin?
I see them all the time: low carb athletes.
Ironically, I just got done talking about this on Ketoconnect’s podcast (airing in a couple months). In fact, Lean Mass Hyper-responders (LMHR) are actually the most likely to have a fasting glucose in the 90s or even over 100s while also sporting a fasting insulin below 3. Moreover, this profile typically has lower blood ketones (BHB) when testing compared to their more sedentary cohorts. (I’ll have a blog post on this soon)
I myself tend to be on the borderline of a LMHR or just past the line when fully keto. In that context, I often have fasting glucose in the 90s or lower 100s and an A1c of between 5.5 and 5.7. And that’s bad, right? Creeping back toward risk of Type 2 diabetes? I certainly don’t think so given my average fasting insulin of 3 or less.
But wait — Baker is much, much higher, right? Almost 20% higher in both fasting glucose and A1c. Surely he’ll be piling up the insulin resistance as we don’t see these numbers in any other low carbers, yes?
Energy Demand Leading to Higher Glucose Sparing?
This is where I part ways with so many people in and out of LCHF. What got me into cholesterol in the first place was seeing how it was really just “ridesharing” in a larger energy metabolism. So energy delivery and homeostasis on a greater network-level scale is what I continue to find endlessly fascinating. I’ll let the Benjamin Bikmans and Michael Eades of this world tackle the finer details of the mitochondria, I want to know how the Human OS manages to traffic that energy to our cells so effectively in the first place.
Which brings us back to Baker. This isn’t any ordinary guy. He isn’t just working out for recreation, he’s an athlete’s athlete. He’s training to break these various world records in addition to a variety of other workout regimes. So if you observe (as I do) a degree of adaptive glucose sparing as being more common with low carb athletes, what do you suppose it would be like for this human cyclone?
It’s not enough to just think of where his cells are getting their energy, you have to think of how timely it needs to be at a systemic level. Is Baker more of a slow jog in the morning kinda guy? No. Is he more of an exploding HIIT adventurer that is probably keeping high muscle confusion? Yes. The latter suggests more need for glycogen stores in the muscle with a strong rotation of glucose via the liver.
This is why I asked Baker and many other low carb athletes to please do more testing for us if they (heaven forbid) get injured or for some reason can’t exercise intensively for a period of time. I suspect in such cases if all other things were equal, their fasting glucose would drop. This is what happened to me when comparing my morning glucose in and out of marathon season.
The Cholesterol Labs
Baker had the following lipids:
Total Cholesterol: 192
For these I had the following notes:
- LDL-C and LDL-P are both on the lower end for a low carber who is as lean and fit as Dr Baker is. I suspect this is due to his emphasis on resistance training, which can reduce LDL scores due to a higher rate of use for muscle repair. [UPDATE: Since writing this article, I’ve since done an experiment that specifically tested this resistance training-induced LDL lowering effect.]
- Small LDL-P is low at 283, and clearly very Pattern A.
- HDL-C — 40 mg/dL is low for a zero carber. However, as he discussed with me, he apparently has low HDL running in the family as well as a prior history of it running closer to 30. At some point, he may what to check into his SNPs and see if there’s some pushdown there.
- HDL-P was highlighted as being low (out of range) at 28. However, I see this frequently with low carbers across the board.
- Triglycerides — 54 is certainly very correlative with a very athletic, insulin sensitive metabolism.
- Lipoprotein (a) — 2 nmol/L is one of the lowest scores I’ve ever seen (maybe THE lowest).
- The score I most care about is Remnant Cholesterol which is calculated by subtracting both HDL-C and LDL-C from Total Cholesterol. His score of just 11 mg/dL is extremely low risk and suggests he has a very efficient fat metabolism. (You can use our reporting tool here if you’d like to calculate your own)
Again, I’m not surprised by the lower LDL-C and LDL-P as I’ve covered this before with my own data. As the theory goes, on one end he’s being powered by fat, necessitating more VLDL secretion. On the other, he’s engulfing LDL-P at a rapid rate for tissue repair, particularly for all that resistance training.
Baker, O’Hearn, and the many other “carnivores” are certainly conducting a very interesting, real-time experiment. I’m excited to see how this new data will manifest and what positives and/or negatives will be revealed.
At some point, I plan to do an experiment of my own going meat-only for a month, just as I plan to do likewise with a plant-based diet. I’ll be very curious as to what happens to my blood markers when comparing to my many, many labs before it.