The Best Diet For Fat Loss: Ketogenic Diet
It’s been a little over a month and a half since I started my diet and fitness routine.
Here’s my previous fitness journal entry, with a picture of my progress: Fitness Journal Entry | 05
But since I posted that journal entry, I made a HUGE change to my dietary regimen.
On 8/15 I started on the Ketogenic Diet; so it has been roughly 2 weeks since I’ve started.
What exactly is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Keto Diet was founded in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder of the Mayo Clinic. Initially, the diet was used as a tool to treat epilepsy.
The diet involves getting your body into a state of Nutritional Ketosis, in which your body stops using carbs/sugars for fuel, and instead switches to using fat for fuel, in the form of ketone bodies.
The macronutrient makeup (in a nutshell, what you’ll need to eat), in order to get into, and remain in, a state of ketosis looks something like this:
- Between 70 – 80% of your calories should come from fat
- Between 20 – 30% of your calories should come from protein
- Between 0 – 5% of your calories should come from carbs
What are the pros of going on the Ketogenic Diet?
The biggest advantages to the Keto Diet are the following:
Best Fat Burning Diet
Because by nature, the keto diet, forces your body to switch its’ “energy currency” from carbs to fats, the body is defaulted to a 24/7 fat-burning mode. Which makes this diet, the #1 diet from a fat loss standpoint; nothing comes even remotely close to it in my opinion.
Improved Mental Clarity
You know the afternoon crash that you sometimes get?
Or after a carbohydrate-heavy meal? It’s often referred to as a sugar crash / glucose crash. That’s because carbs, especially simple carbs, spikes your blood glucose level (insulin spike) and can put you into a state of hypoglycemia. Wikipedia lists the following as the symptoms of being in a state of hypoglycemia:
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks
Blood Sugar Stabilization
The Keto Diet is particularly well known to help with lowering and stabilizing glucose levels. This is an inherent benefit due to the lack of carbohydrate intake, so it allows your blood sugar levels to remain in a stable state.
This is one of the most touted benefits of the keto diet. This is because one of the most difficult things about being on a diet is that, due to the reduction of calories, you’re constantly hungry and irritable. But due to the nature of this diet being made up of 70 – 80% fats, it’s one of the most satiating diets out there. There’s hardly ever a time I’m hungry when on I’m on this diet because fats are a very dense energy source and keeps you fuller for longer. Whereas carbs are digested far more quickly and can trigger hunger, quicker, and more often.
Good for your Health (debatable)
This one’s debatable, but in my opinion, this diet is one of the healthier diets out there, if done correctly. The reason being, you should be consuming a ton of healthy fats. Not the unhealthy fats. With the primary source of calories coming from healthy oils (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil). And according to Dr. Steven Gundry (renowned cardio thoracic surgeon and director of the International Heart and Lung Institute), “food only exists to bring olive oil into your mouth.”
What are the cons of going on the Ketogenic Diet?
Difficult to sustain
Any diet that is highly restrictive of an entire macro nutrient group, is inherently tough to sustain. So given that the Keto Diet calls for close to no carbs, I don’t think I need to explain too much why this would be hard to continue for long periods of time. Practically everything delightful in this world is made up of carbs; and as an Asian, foregoing rice indefinitely sounds absolutely ridiculous, borderline criminal.
Easy to make mistakes on the diet
Because of how crucial it is to stay at a close to zero carbohydrate state, there is very little wiggle room. People often have “cheat days” and “cheat meals” on diets. Well, that’s just not possible on this diet because having a carb-heavy meal will immediately take you out of ketosis. And during the earlier phases of the Keto Diet, it can completely reset a week or more of effort since it can take that long for the body to switch its’ preferred fuel source from carbs to fats.
Limited Variety and socially difficult to execute
This one is kind of similar to the above points, but it’s worth repeating because of how limiting this diet is. You can’t have so much of what’s considered “standard fare normal human food” that it really puts a damper on social gatherings. Because it probably removes 95% of the options that are out there because so much foods have carbs in it. You’ll be stuck with eating non-marinated meat (with no sauce), and/or salads with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (you can’t change this up because you can’t have other types of salad dressings unless it’s a zero carb dressing). And even with meats, you can’t have too much because the vast majority of meat (unless you’re having bacon only), is more protein than fat! And aside from the social aspect, it just makes your day-to-day harder if you’re an avid foodie. Because you can’t have the majority of foods, desserts, snacks, and junk food that’s out there.
If done incorrectly, you will feel horrible
If in the beginning of the diet, you are not taking in an adequate amount of fats. Or you accidentally eat too much carbs (even if you’re off by just a little), your body will be in this weird state of being in the “no mans land”: stuck in between wanting to use carbs like normal, but having barely any carbs, but at the same time not having enough fats to transition into. So you end up feeling extremely fatigued, with a constant fogginess in the brain, and a general feeling of having the flu. This “keto flu” is also one of the biggest reasons people quit this diet early on; because they do it incorrectly due to wrong or insufficient information about the diet.
Constant headache if done incorrectly
The other thing is you need to actually up your sodium intake (because this diet depletes your electrolytes fairly quickly), and your magnesium. So it’s recommended to keep chicken stock, bullion, or anything sodium-heavy on hand in case you start getting a headache. You won’t get a headache though if you’re consuming enough of these throughout the day. A good source of magnesium is avocado; so it’s pretty good practice to have 1-2 whole avocados a day, which also helps with passing stool, due to the fiber content.
Potential Negative Health Effects
Whenever you’re removing a substantial portion of what’s available for you to eat (in this instance, carbs), you will miss out on a lot of nutrients. So you’ll want to supplement with a good multi-vitamin to shore up these deficiencies. Additionally, this diet can have some negative consequences to your blood-lipid profile due to the amount of saturated fats you may consume. That said, as I’ve mentioned above, my opinion is to have the majority of your calories come from healthy fats, especially oils (i.e. olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc) rather than eating bacon and eggs fried in butter all day every day.
Nutritional Ketosis and Diabetic Ketoacidosis are two completely different things. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is an extremely dangerous metabolic state that can occur with people that have type 1 diabetes and sometimes type 2 diabetics if they aren’t properly managing their insulin and diet. So if you do have diabetes or at risk for developing it, be sure to always follow your doctor-recommend blood sugar management routine.
Sounds similar to the Atkins and Paleo Diets; so what’s the difference?
There are huge differences.
On the outside it looks similar (especially when comparing Atkins to Keto), and has key points that sound similar (i.e. low carbs), but the results are vastly different.
First the Paleo Diet, which is a pretty big diet fad right now
This diet focuses on eating whole foods and foregoing any processed or cultivated agricultural foods (i.e. grains). In other words, the Paleo Diet basically bars you from eating anything predating the advent of agriculture. So it has nothing to do with the actual makeup of the food. But this also means that a person can eat potatoes which would mean that it wouldn’t induce a state of ketosis (so this diet is not necessarily a low carb diet).
Atkins is basically the the worse version of the Keto Diet
The reason being, it allows you to eat as much protein as you want. But the problem with this is that protein can be converted into glucose. Which is at odds of keeping you in a state of nutritional ketosis. Because the whole point of being on one of these “low-carb” diets, is to limit glucose in order to achieve a state of ketosis.
And what’s worse is that it puts you into that “no mans land” where you’re straddling a low carb state, while not allowing your body to fully transition into using fat for its’ fuel source. And lastly, Atkins allows the person to up their carbs again after the “induction” phase of the diet. So again, this makes it so that you have, again, a higher chance of being in that “neither this, or that, no mans land.”
How I’m feeling 2 weeks into this diet
I feel amazing.
The first 3 days was a nightmare though.
This is because it takes some time for your body to transition into using fat as the primary fuel source. So I felt weak and I experienced serious mental fog. I couldn’t think straight!
3 days is actually a fairly quick transition. For some, it can take a week or more to fully transition. The reason why my body transitioned quickly was because my diet was on point and I did not skimp on fats. I really loaded it on to encourage my body to start using it over what it’s used to (carbs).
This is where most people mess up with this diet. Because having 70 – 80% of your diet consist of fats is very foreign to the method of eating that most people are used to. It almost feels disgusting because the vast majority of what you’re eating is heavy fats.
What does this look like? I’m taking “fat shots” throughout the day!
So I bought a box of 1000 communion cups. Because they’re exactly 1 TBSP per cup. I keep some at home and some at work. And I drink olive oil and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils throughout the day using these cups.
I also have heaping scoops of coconut oil in the morning (the oil solidifies in colder temperature; and my house is always cold because I can’t stand it being hot in the house).
Mentally, I haven’t felt this clear-headed in a long time. And it’s so weird to have a sustained clear head all day long. Because usually in the afternoon it starts slowing down. But not on this diet! I feel like I just woke up, all day long.
Two things that’s hard though:
One is it’s hard not eating carbs. It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve eaten any “true” carbs (i.e. starch like pasta or rice, or even fruits with the exception of avocados). And secondly, I can’t sustain a high level of intensity in the gym. My strength hasn’t suffered yet. But if I usually do 10 – 12 reps of heavy squats for example, I can now only do 6 or so.
One thing that’s surprising is that I thought I would be constipated since that’s what most people think when they think of a no-carb diet. But I didn’t experience any of that. The reason being, I’m eating between 2-3 whole avocados a day, which is fairly heavy in fiber. And you’re actually supposed to eat a lot of greens when on this diet (low net-carb greens). So the perception of this diet being all-meat and no-veggies is incorrect. Ideally, the vast majority of what you’re eating on this diet is big salad bowls drenched in olive oil.
All-in-all I’m very happy with how this diet is going, and am excited about the results I will continue to experience. I’ve so far lost an additional 7 or so pounds in the past 2 weeks, I feel great, and I always feel full!
WebMD – What’s a Ketogenic Diet?
Bodybuilding.com – Ketogenic Diet: Your Complete Meal Plan and Supplement Guide
Did you know about this diet? If so, have you tried it before? If yes, share your experience of what it was like being on this diet and if you had good results! If you haven’t done this diet before or you’ve never heard of it prior to this, what kind of diets have you tried in the past; and have any of them worked well? Share your thoughts in the comments below!