What the hell is a Ketogenic Diet?
"A hit-the-ground-running introduction to not being fat any more"
~ keto4life, 2016
Ketogenic Diets have grown in popularity and criticism over the last twenty or so years. Popular Ketogenic Diets include: South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet (induction phase only) and several natural diets all over the world used by various tribes and peoples.
1) What does Keto do to my body?
Ketosis, to put it simply, is the state in which you burn fat for fuel. The human body isn’t stupid, it will burn what it has in most abundance that yields the most energy for its volume. Carbs (some) burn up quick but are packed with INTENSE fuel that yield large bursts of energy. Compare this to an energy drink that a lot of modern culture seems to adore. Fat and protein burn slowly and allow a steady stream of energy; your energy levels won’t soon crash because your body can’t get rid of it near as fast as carbohydrates.
Ketosis also helps regulate your blood without complications. Involving complex carbs into your diet causes your body to heighten your blood sugar and as a result produce insulin. This stuff is nasty in large amounts; consider it to be your blood’s very own personal, fat-kicking police force. High blood sugar is interpreted as TOXIC by your body, so the insulin regulates your blood to cleanse it. Soon, though, your body starts struggling to keep up; when you take high amounts of carbs (sugar) and the insulin cant keep up....your body converts sugar to fat and insulin stores it in cells. Your body is capable of regulating your blood sugar on its own without help when you aren’t mainlining so much sucrose. Ketogenic diets avoid such problems!
“But what about heart disease and cholesterol? I DON’T WANNA DIE; BACON ISN’T WORTH IT!”
There is no evidence linking ANY bad cholesterol or heart disease with animal fat. Early human beings ate more than FIVE TIMES the modern recommended intake of animal fat and protein; do not worry about high ANYTHING while on Keto other than energy levels.
“But what about vitamins and minerals?!”
See section two, Keto isn’t going to leave you without essential nutrients unless you live off of bacon and eggs.
2) What do I eat and why?
I’m a firm believer in having a varied, balanced diet. Keto offers plenty of options in this department. The fact is that you eat exactly what you want to. Some keto-ers do their entire meal plans with bacon and eggs with multi-vitamins. Some do all veggies, some fish and eggs with NO vitamins. I, personally, eat everything. Leafy greens, beef, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs are a part of my regular diet.
“So whats up with fat, protein and fiber and all that crap? What does it all mean?”
Fat is essentially satiety. Eating fat keeps you full and makes you not want to gorge on french fries and coke every two hours. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to eat 100000g of fat to stay in ketosis. Though it is GOOD for ketosis, it has nothing to do with how much fat you take in. Protein is muscle fuel, to put it simply. Maintaining protein levels keeps you burning fat and not muscle tissue. While little evidence is present to suggest you NEED fiber in your diet, it does keep your bowels in check. PLUS, you naturally get fiber from leafy green veggies. Green veggies, while being ABSOLUTELY delicious, are rich in vitamins A and K AND fiber. So why dislike fiber when it comes with all kinds of amazing beneficial nutrients. EMBRACE THE GREENS.
Carbs, carbs, carbs. As long as you’re generally under 20 grams of them per day, you’re fine. but try to get those carbs in vegetables or nuts (simple carbs!). Fiber is technically a carb, but we love it to death. You often hear Ketoers mention the term net carbs. Net carbs are the amount of carbohydrates in a food minus the fiber, as you cannot digest fiber and it doesn’t cause an insulin response. Its important to note that fiber isn’t an undo button, though. You can’t eat a bowl of ice cream with green beans and subtract carbs from the ice cream. You subtract it from the carb count of the food that contains the fiber. In general, try to get all the colours in food you can. Doing so ensures that you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients and even minerals. (Mmm...liver).
2a) What do I drink?
Coffee and tea are acceptable (sans sugar and milk), but........
“You better love water more than Michael Phelps himself if you plan to last longer than a fuckin’ week on Keto “
2b) Are there bad foods out there?
Ketogenic diets aren’t just about eating butter and shedding fat. Its about improving overall health. While things like hot dogs and Velveeta (processed cheese) are TECHNICALLY ketogenic in that they don’t contain tons of carbs...they’re horrible in terms of WHAT is in them. What’s in them you ask? YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING. That is the entire problem. If you cannot replicate an item in your kitchen...chances are you shouldn’t be eating the stuff anyway. Ketoers often refer to these Frankenfood. As cool as he may be, Frankenstein ain’t your friend, pal. Take pride in your food and what you make. Buy a low carb cookbook. Buy fresh, local ingredients. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Adopting a positive lifestyle around a diet can circulate into other facets of your life, too. That being said, when faced with the choice of un-organically sourced pork and a cream cake, use your common sense and opt for the lesser of two evils. Don’t use a bad situation as an excuse for poor judgement.
3) Exercise - Where do I start?
This is perhaps the most controversial question in all of r/keto for the community. Exercise is great for your health, there is no question about it. Does exercise contribute largely to weight loss? Not really. The answer of if you should or should not lies within the question of what YOU want from a ketogenic diet. Do you want to shred tonnes of weight? Do you want to build way more muscle? Do you want to do both at the same time? Do you just want to tone muscle? All of these come into play when exercise becomes involved. Someone like Gary Taubes will tell you that exercise isn’t for weight loss because it leads to overeating later and you often eat more than you burned with the rigorous exercise. For way out of shape people, this may be the way to go for MOST of the weight loss journey. If you can exercise and not overeat, by all means continue. What exercise you take up is up to you. Do something you enjoy, simply put. Do you like running? Buy a pair of shoes and have at it. Cycling your thing? Bike to your hearts content! It’s all good for you but remember to never let exercise get in the way of your goal. Take things in stages. Maybe you need to lose a hundred pounds or so before you start involving cardio or HIIT. This isn’t supposed to happen overnight. There is no right or wrong answer other than whats appropriate for you. Exercise is important for health but not a complete staple for weight loss.
4) How long should I do Keto?
The short answer is for as long as possible. Some of us indulge more in carbs when we reach our target fitness but many of us never go back. After all, you don’t tell a druggie or an alcoholic to partake once in awhile for indulgence sake! This isn’t meant to be a temporary fix or an excuse to go back to binging on hundreds of grams of carbs.
“Its been a week. Why do I feel like crap?”
The first week or more is your body adjusting to the low-carb lifestyle. This includes feeling miserable with symptoms of influenza, colloquially known as the dreaded Keto-Flu. Your symptoms will eventually go away, don’t worry. In the long term it is very worth it and if you’re lucky you won’t get it at all! Stay hydrated and drink salty broth if possible. Try not to over-exert yourself for the first week of the diet; wait to become more accustomed to using ketones as a primary fuel source before attempting exercise.
5) How do I know if I’m stalling/plateauing?!
Plateauing is when you stop losing weight entirely for 2 or more weeks. It happens to all of us and there are a few ways to defeat it. Firstly, fluctuation is natural when it comes to weight loss. Water is coming and going so fast in keto that you can never trust a scale to the exact decimal. The general rule is to weigh once a week. If you can stand to weigh every single day and not have a seizure when you notice your trend goes up for once, fine. More importantly, put in the effort to log your food. Logging is a simple discipline that, too, can spread to other aspects of your life. While you don’t HAVE to count your calories, it makes understanding problems a hell of a lot easier.
There are a few ways to combat plateauing. Some people do intermittent fasting (IF) as a means of breaking them. IFing is when you break a 24 hour period into two sections. For example, a 20/4 IF schedule means that you fast for 20 hours only drinking water and then have 4 hours of calorie intake. You should do this anywhere from 3-7 days in order to break a plateau and some people even do it constantly. Water during a fasting state keeps your metabolism active and keeps you hydrated. An alternative would be a Fat Fast (FF), this is a meager fast where you only intake 1,000 calories from 90 percent fat for 3-5 days. It is one of the most intense ways to break a plateau; while very effective, FFing is hard work and fairly nutrient void. Lastly, some people do whats known as a hard fast. This is a fast in which the user eats NOTHING for a period of up to three days. Not recommended but has been known to work for some people in a tight spot.
6) Booze: Whats it do?
Alcohol is allowed on a low-carb diet but it certainly doesn’t come without a price. Booze DOES count toward the calorie count and often has carbs, so be careful! In the same way your body burns fat over muscle, it also breaks down alcohol before others, as its toxic and needs to be handled as a priority. This means while you’re drinking and alcohol is in your system...you are NOT burning fat. It is also worth mentioning that your alcoholic tolerance is LOWERED on while low-carbing. Space your drinks out more and be sure to avoid carby drinks like beer and sweet wines. Be safe and stay hydrated.
7) Tools of the Trade
7a) My Fitness Pal Tips
8) Glossary of Terms
9) Videos/Web Resources/Recommended Reading
Title Author ISBN
The New Atkins for a New You Westman, Phinney, Volek 978-0091935573
Wheat Belly William David 978-1609611545
Why We Get Fat Gary Taubes 978-0307272706
Good Calories, Bad Calories Gary Taubes 978-1400033461
The Paleo Diet Loren Cordain 978-0470913024
The Paleo Solution Robb Wolf 978-0982565841
The Primal Blueprint Mark Sisson 978-0982207703
The Ketogenic Diet Lyle McDonald 978-0967145600