Lets start with the basic outline of what this is before we get into anything deeper.
The Ketogenic (keto) or Zero Carb diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate nutrition plan that creates a state in the body known as ketosis. During ketosis your body becomes extremely efficient at burning fat as its primary fuel source by converting fats to ketone molecules which in turn fuel the brain & body extremely well.
The diet has evolved from one of its many original forms such as ‘the Atkins diet” over the years and is now favoured by many of its users because of the health related benefits and the links to eradicating many metabolic diseases such as diabetes, alzheimers and non alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Yet in modern life it is still used by millions not because of any of those reasons but because of the most desperate desire by many of WEIGHT LOSS.
It is that what I wish to explore in this post. There is no question that a Ketogenic diet works, however I wish to delve into why people choose to do it, what the misconceptions are, what it actually entails and whether or not it is right for you.
Firstly I will state that I am a practitioner of the Ketogenic method and have been for over 12 months now. I am not advocating it or offering up any new research. I am in no way shape or form a doctor or researcher on this subject but purely an interested party and user who can hopefully offer some context and potentially help you make an educated decision.
Out the gate I will say that I do not believe that this way of eating is suited to everybody. Reducing your carbohydrate content to under 20g per day is no mean feat, especially when you consider there is more carbohydrate than that in a banana, a “healthy” wrap or even a standard skinny latte from your favourite coffee shop. It can be done over night but I would not recommend it. The approach that many adopt is to just go cold turkey on carbs, OK, good luck with that. By using this approach you are opening yourself up to a world of pain (see Trainspotting and the detox from heroine). Speaking from experience it took me around 12 months from starting to adopt the workings of a ketogenic diet to being fully keto adapted. That, I might stress was not 12 months of ‘trying’ to cut carbs, but an educated, methodic system of week by week tweaking my intake to see how dropping certain foods would affect me. Over that time I found that the closer and closer to zero carb I got, the better I felt. If you want to hear a few of the horror stories just google keto flu. This is a legitimate flu-like sickness that many people get when they suddenly drop carbohydrate from their diet. When you consider the average carbohydrate content of anyone with a typical western diet it is easy to understand why these flu stories are so bad.
The point I am trying to make with this is that it is a hard thing to do. Not impossible by any means, but it is hard. The idea of it is very tempting for many, and when the stories are told of people dropping kg after kg by just eating fat people only take the good from that. They instantly see what they want to see. A year ago I worked with a guy who was the dictionary definition of ‘the quick fix miracle dieter’. Anyway needless to say this guy went Keto. Or at least what he thought was keto. On one instance he was eating a pie but just the inside, not the crust, thinking that was good to go. OK so did you factor in how they got the gravy in that pie so thick, and I guarantee it wasn’t keto friendly flour. With enough carbs to knock anyone out of ketosis this guy was taking down sausages (just read the ingredients next time you buy a pack, maltodextrin ain’t your friend), Big Macs without the bun (because that sauce is sugar-free). I mean he was only seeing what he wanted to. Which was basically justification for eating crap. That is my big problem with this type of eating. People jump onto it without actually researching how or why it works. Because people associate fat as bad and something that is stopping them getting in shape, when they are told they can eat an abbundance of it they choose to eat anything they’ve ever considered remotely bad, which usually means chocolate, junk etc. The culture that we now live in where everybody wants the quick and easy result see’s what they want to see and that is it.
When I say going zero carb is hard I mean IT IS HARD. Not in the sense that you feel deprived, because you don’t, but hard because you actually have to pay attention to what you are eating, take full responsibility for reading food labels and planning ahead. This is not the type of thing you can do on the fly and hope it works out. It’s actually a pretty scientific process. It doesn’t work for 22 hours out of 24. It is a lifestyle choice that affects many areas of your day-to-day routine. If you are partial to a glass of wine each night this won’t work. If you’re unable to give up your milky coffee this won’t work, and if you’re unwilling to drop the fruit, starchy veg or energy drinks THIS WON’T WORK. You cannot be “sort of keto” or “keto while your at work” or “keto as long as there isn’t a bakery in the neighbourhood”. This is clear cut, YOU ARE or YOU AREN”T.
However for me there is a crucial point to this that gets many people over the line and creates huge success stories, and it is if the person going Keto is doing it for a lifestyle change. Because that is what it is. As much as moving to a different city, having a baby or moving in with a partner affects your lifestyle, dropping carbohydrate from your diet does so on a massive scale. If you have identified that you are lethargic, in bad health, constantly tired, have up and down energy levels, have no focus, feel bloated, always hungry, or an infinite amount of other issues then this could be the lifestyle for you, but you have to be willing to put in the hard yards. You have to be willing to look for alternative foods, you have to be willing to prepare your days nutrition in advance and you have to be willing to educate yourself to some level about basic nutrition. You can’t just eat fat because the diet says eat fat. If you are doing that you are hoping for a good outcome and hope is not a tactic. You need to guarantee the result.
Alternatively if you are doing this with weight loss as your singular motivation, if you decided to start it one Sunday evening after 4 glasses of Sav or you’re doing it because you’ve “tried everything else”, then I wouldn’t kid yourself that this will be any different from anything you have attempted in the past. Eating Ketogenically is not a quick fix because the end game is eating ketogenically. There is no date where you finish, certainly not 3 months down the line when you’ve hit ideal weight. The health benefits of this way of life are phenomenal but you have to want the health benefits, not just the weight loss. If you do drop body fat by doing this it is an added bonus, but the clarity, focus, drive, vitality and constant unwavering energy are worth the price of admission alone.
I have always eaten healthily but this way of life is head and shoulders above anything I have ever done. I can operate day in day out teaching students to skydive, doing multiple jumps per day, exercising everyday, having around 5 hours sleep per night on what would be considered a ridiculously small amount of food. (see my post https://wordpress.com/post/fifteenfit.com/1215 for a look at my daily routine). And all because the Ketogenic diet lifestyle has allowed me to.
If you would like more information on eating ketogenically just drop me a line on any of the socials and I would be happy to help or answer any questions you may have.
Once again this is not me advocating you do this, but simply the thoughts of a guy who has seen many people fail at this, for the exact same reasons and adopted this as a lifestyle not a miracle.