Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) and Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy (MMT)

by Catherine M. Haug,  July 2017; updated April 2019

July 2017: I started the ketogenic diet in 2013, giving up all sugar/starch-containing foods (except for fresh fruits). That wasn’t so hard, because after the first 2 days of the diet, I stopped craving sugar; and while the diet has improved several aspects of my health – such as I no longer have dark circles under my eyes – I still have a way to go. I’ve not lost weight, which was a minor goal, and more importantly, my energy has not improved, and my memory issues are still there.

So after reading two articles by Dr. Mercola (1A, 1B) that include the importance of Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy (MMT; changing from pure keto to a cyclic keto diet (CKD) once you body has reached ketosis), I decided to give that a try. I added whole grain bread or porridge and higher-carb fruits (apple, banana) 2 – 3 times a week to my daily regimen. I also reduced my protein consumption as recommended by Mercola’s articles.  I did not reduce my fat consumption on those days (except the fats associated with my primary protein sources: eggs, dairy, and meats).

Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy (MMT)

Mercola writes in the Story at a Glance for his article, “Basic Introduction to Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy” (1A):

  • “A foundational cause of most degenerative diseases is the fact that your mitochondria are not receiving sufficient amounts of proper fuel. As a result, your mitochondria start to deteriorate and malfunction;
  • Your body requires the metabolic flexibility to use both fat and glucose for fuel. Conventional dietary advice fails because eating a high-carb diet for a long period of time makes you unable to effectively burn fat;
  • To regain the ability to burn fat for fuel, you need to minimize net carbs, increase healthy fats and restrict protein to adequate levels.”

The following factors set in motion metabolic and biological cascades that deteriorate your health:

  1. Eating far too many foods (especially processed foods) which are high in net carbs (sugars and starches), and low in healthful fats/high in unhealthful fats, results in gaining and retaining extra body fat and becoming increasingly insulin resistant.
  2. Eating too much protein for optimal health, and
  3. Not getting enough physical movement.

These all affect our cells’ batteries, the mitochondria; they are not receiving sufficient amounts of proper fuel. This leads to deterioration and malfunction, and lays the groundwork for subsequent breakdowns of various bodily systems; i.e., degenerative diseases.

When your body burns primarily carbs for fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA, leading to the degenerative diseases that are so prevalent today. Healthful fats, on the other hand, are a cleaner-burning fuel, creating far fewer ROS and free radicals. Plus, these healthful fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions.

Mercola adds an important caveat:

“It’s important to emphasize that MMT is not merely adding more healthy fat to your current diet or eating as much fat as you want. It is absolutely crucial to restrict net carbs, or else you’re merely increasing the number of calories you consume. Raising the amount of fat and decreasing net carbs is what pushes your body into burning fat for fuel.

Eating high amounts of both fat and net carbs will NOT allow your body to make this shift, as your body will use whatever sugar is available first.”

Dietary fats: lists of foods with healthful and not-healthful fats

Mercola identifies the following foods as rich in healthful fats (text in brackets are my additions; the links as bold-purple text are to other articles on Cat’s Kitchen):

  • Avocados: % of total fat (4, 5A):
    • 15% saturated (as palmitic and stearic acids),
    • 67% mono-unsaturated (as oleic acid) and
    • 12% poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and linolenic acids);
  • Coconuts and coconut oil (excellent for cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures without oxidizing); % of total fat (6):
    • 90% saturated (as caproic, caprylic, capric, lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid)
    • 6% g mono-unsaturated (as oleic acid)
    • 2% g poly-unsaturated (as linoleic acid)
  • Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and/or krill oil provide animal-based omega-3 (DHA and EPA) fat while being low in [toxic] mercury. 
  • Butter made from raw grass fed Organic milk  (7)
    • 62% saturated (as butyric, capric, caproic, caprylic, myristic, palmitic, stearic, lauric, acids)
    • 31.9% mono-unsaturated (as oleic acid)
    • 0.3% poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and linolenic acids)
  • Nuts, raw [preferably sprouted]; macadamia and pecans are ideal as they are high in healthful fats, while being low in protein. The following fat composition data is for pecans; the percentages are of total nutrients, not just of total fats (8, 9A):
    • 8.6% saturated (as palmitic, stearic and arachidic acids);
    • 57% mono-unsaturated (as oleic and gadoleic acids);
    • 3% poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and alpha linolenic acids)
  • Seeds [raw, preferably sprouted] like black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds; The following fat composition data is for pumpkin seeds; the percentages are of total nutrients, not just of total fats (9B)
    • 8.5% saturated (as lauric, myristic, palmitic, and  acids);
    • 14.3% mono-unsaturated (as oleic, palmitoleic and gadoleic acids);
    • 20.9% poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and alpha linolenic acids)
  • Olives and olive oil (make sure it’s third party certified, as 80 percent of olive oils are adulterated with vegetable oils): (5B)
    • 14 – 21% saturated (as palmitic, stearic, arachidic, and behenic acids),
    • 66 – 81% mono-unsaturated (as palmitoleic, oleic, gadoleic and erucic acids)
    • 7 – 26% poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and linolenic acids)
  • Meats from grass fed (pastured), preferably Organic and humanely raised livestock. Avoid CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) animal products. See Lard, tallow, duck and goose fat, below, for composition info.
  • MCT oil [this is not a natural triglyceride; rather is produced by reacting a mix of natural Medium Chain fatty acids with glycerol; because of this, I am skeptical about MCT oil and prefer natural fats/oils high in medium-chain fatty acids (6 – 12 carbons long).]
    • 100% saturated; as caproic, caprylic, capric, and caproic acids (6, 8, 10 and 12 carbons, respectively)
  • Ghee (clarified butter), excellent for cooking and baking; composition is similar to butter (above); 
  • Lard (pork fat), also excellent for cooking and baking:
    • 40% saturated
    • 48% monounsaturated
    • 12% polyunsaturated.
  • Tallow (beef & mutton fat), also excellent for cooking and baking:
    • 50-55% saturated,
    • 40% monounsaturated,
    • <3% polyunsaturated.
  • [Duck & goose fat], also excellent for cooking and baking:
    • 35% saturated,
    • 52% monounsaturated,
    • 13% polyunsaturated.
  • Raw cacao butter (2B)
    • 36-43% saturated (as stearic, palmitic, myristic acid, arachidi, and lauric acid)
    • 29–43% Mono-unsaturated (as oleic, and palmitoleic acids)
    • 0 – 5% Poly-unsaturated (as linoleic and  α-Linolenic acids)
  • Organic, pastured egg yolks (2C, 10)
    • 38.5% saturated (as lignoceric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, acids)
    • 48.2% Mono-unsaturated (as oleic, palmitoleic, and vaccenic acids); interesting note: vaccenic acid is a natural trans fatty acid
    • 13.2% Poly-unsaturated (as arachidonic, linoleic, linolenic acids)

He also identifies fats and foods to avoid:

  • Fats: Partially-hydrogenated trans fat (not natural) which act as a pro-oxidant [encourages oxidation];
  • Highly refined poly-unsaturated vegetable oils which are high in damaged omega-6 fats, and produce toxic oxidation products like cyclic aldehydes when heated.
  • [To which I add interesterified fats, which are an unnatural combination of natural fats].
  • Foods: most processed/packaged foods, because they typically contain inexpensive synthetic (not natural) fats, or altered natural fats. Also common in restaurant foods.

Dietary protein: how to determine optimal amount

“The program differs significantly from Paleo in that it restricts protein to adequate levels. A general recommendation is to limit your protein to one-half gram of protein per pound (1 gram per kilo) of lean body mass. To determine your lean body mass, subtract your body fat percentage from 100.

For example, if you have 30 percent body fat, then you have 70 percent lean body mass. Then multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.7) by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. As an example, if you weigh 170 pounds, 0.7 multiplied by 170 equals 119 pounds of lean body mass. Using the “half-gram of protein” rule, you daily protein requirement would be 59.5 or just under 60 grams.

Certain individuals and life circumstances do raise your protein requirements. This includes seniors, pregnant women and those who are aggressively exercising (or competing). As a general rule, these individuals need about 25 percent more protein.” (1A)

But, you ask, how do I know my percent body fat? See online calculators (3A, 3B) that use weight and specific circumference measurements.

Why limit protein? because it stimulates the mTOR signaling pathway, which has significant, adverse metabolic consequences. Importantly, this pathway plays a significant role in many cancers, and in the aging process. If you “reduce protein to just what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.” (1A)

Important to MMT is “Feast/Famine cycling,” which attempts to mimic what indigenous people experience throughout their life. Mercola writes, “Continuously remaining in nutritional ketosis can actually cause counterproductive side effects, and is likely not optimally healthy in the long term.” (1) See CK Diet section below for more on this.

Why is this so important? It has to do with the hormone, insulin. From Mercola (bolded text by Cat) (1):

“When you suppress insulin for too long, … your liver starts making more glucose to make up for the deficit. The result? Your blood sugar starts rising even if you’re not eating any sugar at all. In this situation, eating a high-sugar meal will actually LOWER your blood sugar (because you activated insulin, which then suppresses glucose production in your liver). In the long term, this is not a healthy metabolic state, and cycling in and out of nutritional ketosis will prevent this from occurring.”

Iron and mitochondrial function

“When you have high iron levels in your mitochondria, it enhances oxidation, creating high levels of damaging ROS and free radicals. Fortunately, high iron is simple to fix. Simply check your iron level with a serum ferritin test, and if your level is high, donate blood two or three times a year to maintain a healthy level.

An ideal iron ferritin level is between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), the same as vitamin D. Below 20 ng/mL is a deficiency state, and you definitely do not want to be above 60 or 80 ng/mL.” (1)

CK Diet (CKD)

Need more details, examples of how to modify on high-carb days

See Mercola article on MMT (1A) for more about this interesting twist on the Ketogenic Diet that involves a feast/fast sequence (an attempt to duplicate how early humans ate, but has a few differences from the Paleo Diet, especially restricting protein consumption to 1.2 gram protein for every pound (or 1 gram for every kilo) of lean body mass.):

  1. 2 – 3 days per week increasing your carbs and protein (“feast”), and reduce your fats accordingly, then
  2. return to the low-carb, reduced protein ketogenic program (“fast”) for the remainder of the week (4 – 5 days).

This sequence should only be started after phase one of the ketogenic program, when your body has gotten used to burning fats instead of carbs for fuel.

  • One thing is to heal my gut, which I’ve been working on, but have not seen much progress.
  • Perhaps too much fruit;
  • Perhaps too much protein (4 oz meat, 2x; raw dairy and cultured cheese in daily smoothie; 

Getting started with MMT/ CKD

This is finished

In the beginning, it helps if you record the amount of fat, carbs and protein you eat; the more precise, the better, to help you know what you need to adjust. Mercola recommends the following (1):

  1. A kitchen scale to weigh food items
  2. Measuring cups to measure food amounts
  3. A nutrient tracker.

He recommends his free online chronometer (11), as it is the most accurate nutrient tracker available, and it’s already set up for nutritional ketosis. Just enter your base parameters (such as height, weight, body fat percentage* and waist circumference), it will automatically calculate the ideal ratios of net carbs, protein and healthy fats (including your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio) to put you into nutritional ketosis.

*See online calculators (3A, 3B) that use weight and specific circumference measurements to determine your body fat %.


  1. Mercola:
    1. Basic Introduction to Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy:
    2. Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet:
  2. Wikipedia:
    3. various fatty acids: myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, heptadecanoic, stearic, oleic, vaccenic, linoleic, linolenic, arachidonic, and lignoceric 
  3. Percent Body Fat calculators:
  5. Essoteric Oils:
  9. The PaleoDiet:

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