Eat 70% of your calories from fat every day? Smother everything in butter and coconut oil? Eat bowls of creme fraiche, tubs of cream cheese, strips of bacon and snack on fullfat string cheese? Sacre bleu. This is blasphemy. Read on to learn about my first week on a Ketogenic Diet and why I plan to stick with it.
I’ve always been afraid of fat. It’s one of my personal demons. My entire adult life I’ve struggled to lose it off my hips, butt and belly. It’s a permanent resident on my upper arms (my ‘happy place’ as Jules affectionately calls my bat wings).
And despite spending most of the past decade diligently refusing to add fat to the food I cook, buying low fat or non fat goods, insisting to waiters in restaurants that they must prepare my food sans butter, and eating salads without dressing (booooring)…I still find myself constantly hitting fat-loss plateaus, being unsatisfied even after a large meal, and lacking in energy to get through tough workouts. You see, even after a conscious shift to a healthier, cleaner lifestyle you constantly need to change gears, work through plateaus and reevaluate your body’s needs.
I’ve experimented a lot with my macro breakdowns and trying to create the right diet that gets me results, gives me energy, and meets all the minimum nutritional requirements. I wrote about that here. And all of those guidelines still hold absolutely true.
But I needed something more.
My current goal is to get down to 14% bodyfat by the end of April – down from my current 16%. My usual high protein/low fat/low carb diet doesn’t seem to cut it (quite literally). I typically eat 45% protein/30% carbs/25% fats. With a bit of research I stumbled upon the Ketogenic Diet. A typical Keto macro breakdown is 65% fat/5% carbs/30% protein.
(Queue skidding to a halt sound)
What the what? At first I was flummoxed. Eating primarily fat, negligible carbs and just enough protein to maintain muscle mass? Surely that can’t be healthy. Isn’t that awfully imbalanced? Apparently not.
On ‘keto’ (as it’s called within the ketogenic community) you don’t calorie restrict or count, you simply ensure to eat over 70% of your daily calories from a fat source in order to put your body into ‘ketosis’. You may be familiar with the term if you’ve ever done the Atkins diet. It’s a state where the body, starved of carbohydrates for energy, begins to utilize fat as it’s primary source of fuel. Typical human diets focus on carbohydrates as your main source of energy production in the body: the carbs break down as glucose and rush around your body giving you energy. Your body is also quite a little clever clogs and can also convert protein to glucose. When you don’t give your body carbs or much protein it is forced to burn fat as fuel instead. The ketones produced as a result of this fat breakdown replace glucose as your primary energy source. Turning you into a 24/7 fat burning machine. More on that in this very useful article.
This is a paradigm shift. An epiphany. Mind-bending. Mind-boggling. Mind baffling. Cray cray. Ok you get the drift.
Here I am typing this article. Burning fat. I’m leaning over to get a sip of water. And burning fat. Oh there goes the doorbell, I’ll walk 10 steps over to the door. And burn some more fat. This smug smile on my face? Yeah I’m burning fat smiling too.
As it turns out it’s nearly impossible to get fat eating fat. This guy even did an experiment eating nearly 6,000 calories a day for 21 days, adding in excess of 56,000 calories over his regular caloric intake…and gained just 1.3kgs. If you ate 5,000 calories a day of low fat, low carb, high protein foods daily you most certainly would gain weight. All calories aren’t made equal it seems.
While protein and carbs seem to hold up their calorie value fairly accurately (and make you fat if you overeat them), fat seems to defy this logic somehow. And not only are the fat-loss results on keto impressive, it’s also the diet of choice prescribed by medical professionals for diabetics, epilepsy sufferers, cancer patients, alzheimer’s patients, and people dealing with anxiety and depression. Eating a high fat diet elevates mood, creates more food satisfaction, gives you more energy, keeps you fuller for longer (automatically leading to reduced calorie intake), and gets you leaner.
This is a paradigm shift. An epiphany. Mind-bending. Mind-boggling. Mind baffling. Cray cray. Ok, ok, I’ll calm down.
It hasn’t been an easy shift. For the past week I’ve had brain fog, found it hard to get through my weekend Flywheel session and am constantly punching foods into MyFitnessPal to make sure they don’t tip me over the 20 grams of carbs I’m permitted daily. I spend my free time Googling ‘fat bombs’ and ‘keto calculators’ and eating out has become something of a nightmare. The other night I made a tray of Chocolate Coconut Fat Bombs, and my regular black coffee now has a tablespoon of organic coconut oil mixed into it. I carry a bottle of the stuff around in my handbag and try to pour it over my food inconspicuously (people still notice the gargantuan 500ml jar for some reason). I’ve been eating roughly 2000-3500 calories a day and losing weight. I also bought Ketostix – little sticks that turn a dark purple if your urine shows the presence of ketones, and get a sort of sick sense of satisfaction as I watch them change colour.
I’m enjoying my meals more, my six pack is back, I’ve dropped the 7lbs (yes, you read that right) of weight gain from our recent business trip to Paris, and in the past 2 days I’ve had more mental clarity and energy than I’ve had in a long time. I’m through the ‘break-in’ period, and am watching the fat melt off me. I’m more than certain that I’ll hit my 14% bodyfat target and then some, but moreover I’ve discovered a way of eating that’s eliminated my sugar cravings (my other demon), and lets me have more fun with my food. Sounds like a sustainable life eating plan if I ever heard one.
If you’re interested in trying a ketogenic diet, it’s best to start out by downloading a keto calculator that’ll take all the math out of working out your food ratios. This one is excellent. The Keto community is also very active and helpful and there are entire forum discussions on every possible question you may have. I found this one to be especially helpful. I’ll report back with my results after my next fitness exam and will be posting Keto recipes over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.
Now excuse me, I have to go pee on a Ketostick.