A husband and wife rowed from California to Hawaii in 45 days fueled by a sugar-free, low carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
Sami Inkinen, a Silicon Valley executive and endurance athlete, and his wife, Meredith Loring, completed their epic journey across the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness of the health dangers of a high-carb, high-sugar diet. The expedition was called the Fat Chance Row.
In the process, Inkinen and Loring raised $200,000 for the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, which is run by Dr. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist who has been called “the anti-sugar guy” for his vocal stance against sugar intake.
“We are using this as a platform to raise awareness and raise funds against sugar and for whole-foods-based nutrition,” Sami told Grind TV.
A high-carb diet has been linked to a wide variety of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Meanwhile, a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes, promote weight loss, prevent epileptic seizures, and starve cancer cells.
Inkinen, who's originally from Finland, followed a sugar-free ketogenic diet with a macronutrient ratio of 70% fat, 21% percent protein and 9% carbs during the 45-day Fat Chance Row.
Because Sami and his wife were both fat-adapted (meaning their bodies were already trained to burn fat instead of glucose for fuel), they did not experience carb cravings or intense hunger despite rowing up to 21 hours a day on their grueling journey.
By drastically reducing carbs, the ketogenic diet forces the body to enter a state called ketosis, which suppresses appetite, said obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity.
The biggest benefits for me were steady energy all day and no food cravings at all," said Inkinen. "I ate when I was hungry, which was two to four times a day, and I really didn’t crave anything while on the boat.
And we rowed up to 21 hours per day each, with an average of 12 to 14 hours per day."
Inkinen is the co-founder of the real estate group Trulia, which was recently acquired by Zillow for $3.5 billion in stock. He joins a growing number of endurance athletes who are sold on the health benefits of low-carb, high-fat diets such as the ketogenic and Paleo plans.
A notable example is NBA superstar LeBron James, who made headlines after losing 25 pounds on a low carb Paleo diet. The 6-foot-8 James weighs 250 pounds after once tipping the scales at 270 or more.
While LeBron was not overweight, sources said the stunning weight loss was motivated by James' desire to ease pressure on his joints, especially his knees. James' friend, New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, also lost a dramatic amount of weight on a low-carb diet this summer.
LeBron was reportedly inspired by the health transformation of his former Miami Heat teammate, Ray Allen, who said he experienced improved energy and better post-workout recovery after switching to the low-carb, sugar-free Paleo diet in 2013. At 39, Allen remains in top shape at an age when most basketball stars are retired.
Tim Noakes, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said low-carb, high-fat diets promote weight loss, combat diabetes and reduce inflammation. Noakes said once athletes get fat-adapted, they will experience better performance in the long haul.
In July 2014, Dr. Jay Lehr, a 78-year-old Ironman triathlete made headlines after revealing he has been following a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet his entire life. Lehr, who recently completed his 13th Ironman triathlon, credits the ketogenic diet for his incredible health and energy.
“I’ve never been inside a regular doctor’s office,” he said. “I have lived my entire life on high fat — dairy, eggs, butter and lard — which, as you all know has not been the recommended diet for the last 50 years.”