Macro Wars: The Ketogenic Success Approach

Why we do what we do.

Article by Mandy Pagano | 11 Jul, 2021

Article originally published on on 10/26/18. It has been lightly edited for re-publication.

Parts one and two of this series can be found at the hyperlinks.

Ketogenic Success has a bit of a reputation. We've come to be rather pejoratively referred to as "that high fat group," and many people mistakenly believe that the kind of keto we promote is fairly exclusive to the medical therapy side of things. This couldn't be further from the truth.

What's Really Going On

The reality is this: we want you to do keto in a way that works best for your body and will help you achieve your goals.

For some folks, this means lower or more moderate fat consumption, and higher protein. For others, it means higher fat and more moderate protein. Others still need sky high fat, and very little protein. As long as you're making progress toward your goals, we are happy for you to keto your way! Unfortunately, in the never ending, intercommunity Macro Wars, our very laissez-faire attitude toward keto personalization inevitably gets lost in all the diet dogma screeching about calories and fat.

As explained before the general overarching shape of the community is like so: there is a low-to-moderate fat, higher protein camp; a high fat, moderate protein camp; and a very high fat, lower protein camp which tends to be used in various medical therapies. If you follow us regularly, I'm sure you've guessed that we fall right in the middle group. The Ketogenic Success approach encompasses a spectrum, but the general gist of things is that we promote a fat range that is higher than moderate, but only rarely approaching the 85-90% plus range that is typically found amongst those using keto in conjunction with treatments for various cognitive disorders and other diseases.

Our approach is intentionally designed to be a median one. We try to establish parameters that will help the most people approaching the lifestyle for a wide variety of issues, and be easily customizable for those who fall outside the spectrum to either type of bodily or metabolic extreme. Keeping our protocol fairly open allows us to tailor our recommendations to individual needs. We are all different; what Mandy Pagano, work-from-home homeschooling mama, needs may not work out as well for Danny Vega, life-long athlete and body building badass.

The problem is when people start insisting that I absolutely must do things Danny's way, or vice versa, or else it's, "Do you even keto, bro?"

So, What Does This Have to Do with All the Calories and Fat Talk?

Much as we loathe this kind of discussion, in this series we have talked a lot about fat consumption and calories. We hope that you have noticed that, within these contexts, we have tried very hard to emphasize the need for bodily nourishment. Weight maintenance and health is not simply a matter of eating less of fat or protein, or even eating less in general, and moving more. It's a complicated, hormonally driven process, and failure to provide adequate nourishment and nutrition to your body can throw a pretty big wrench in the works.

In our experience, the vast majority of people's nourishment needs are going to fall into a range of 65% to 85% dietary fat, as a percentage of caloric intake. You'll notice that's a pretty wide range. In addition to meeting the definition of a standard ketogenic protocol, it is wide because those are the ranges we have found tend to help the most people with the widest variety of issues.

The Mythical Ketogenic Plate

There are also controversies over how much fat one has on his or her plate, versus a "healthy" ideal of a plate covered in vegetables. As Dr. Adam Nally has pointed out more than once, the problem with these kinds of comparisons are (a) they're usually wrong, as the plates pictures covered in veggies would tend to be too high carb to be useful as one meal for most people on a ketogenic protocol, and (b) they're unfair and don't take into account the reasons why different people may need to eat differently within the protocol. It's more of the "my way or the highway" kind of stuff that we adamantly try to avoid here.

As far as our methods go, while we get a lot of nasty jibes about being "butter chuggers," let's be real here: there are a variety of reasons why a person might need to add fat to their plate, and most of them have nothing at all to do with gluttony. For example, we encounter people in our coaching program who have all kinds of food aversions and tolerances. If a person doesn't tolerate fatty meats well- be it for reasons of taste, texture, ease of digestion, or just that they can't eat a lot of meat for some medical reason- then, instead of making fun of that person or berating them, we see nothing wrong with adding extra fat to their plate to compensate and assure they're being properly nourished.

Would we ideally be getting most of our fat directly from the foods we eat? Yes, certainly. At the same time, it's important to acknowledge that there is the ideal, and then there is real life wherein human beings are insanely complex organisms, and we sometimes have to rearrange our ideals to make it work for people in the realities of their lives.

This isn't a matter of if it fits your macros (IIFYM). It's acknowledging that those fatty acids consumed by adding a pat of butter instead of choking down all the fat and gristle and such off a steak are still necessary regardless of which way you choose to get it into your body. Ketogenic persons need fat for fuel. Full stop.

Even if you have fat on your body, you still have to give your system enough fuel on a regular basis so it doesn't slow down to compensate for a perceived lack. So, adding some butter or cheese sauce or sour cream to our steak that's a little bit leaner is a perfectly acceptable and concrete way to get in those essential fatty acids when the ideal doesn't work for us. Some folks act like that's somehow off limits or out-of-bounds. We are forever astonished by the people who actually ate this way when they started out- and were extremely successful doing so, and in encouraging others to do so!- that manage to disparage this kind of thing now because the keto trends happen to be flowing in a different direction at the moment.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully this series has shed some light upon the "insider" issues surrounding the Macro Wars that are ever-present in the community, as well as insight into why Ketogenic Success chooses to promote specific keto methods. So often, we come across people who are just looking for help, but are completely lost in the noise and the infighting and don't know what the heck the trouble is even about- much less where they should start- and we wanted to help those who find themselves confused and bewildered by all the inter-community spats cut through the noise and get a clearer picture of the issues at play.

As we hope has been adequately expressed, the reality of the situation is that all human beings are different, and we don't all have the same needs. While we tend to support and promote one way of "doing" keto, if you experiment and find that tweaking things another way gets you closer to health and well-being, we think that's awesome and are happy for you. It is our hope that the community as a whole would adopt more of this attitude, and simply be happy for people who are doing well instead of fighting tooth-and-nail over the minutiae and/or exiling people from their various "camps," which ultimately ends up ostracizing people from the ketogenic lifestyle and health movement.

When we boil things down to the basics, the ultimate goal for all of us- experts, doctors, chefs, psychologists, personal trainers, and laypersons- is to help people find the key to unlocking their door to personal health. That is the goal here, and while we may dissent in specifics, we should be united in the basics and on the bigger message: Keto is ideal for life and for health.

Spread the love, spread the word, and keto on, y'all.

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