Awhile back, I wrote a post about intermittent fasting. Fasting, along with a fairly rigorous workout schedule allowed me to drop a fair amount of pounds. And it felt great. I was fitting into new clothes, feeling more confident, energized, and all that good stuff that comes with weight loss.
BUT, like most folks who jump into dieting and exercise…I kind of plateaued. I reached a point where I couldn’t drop weight, gain muscle, or see any real progress in how I looked or felt. And it was really discouraging.
So much so, I stopped working out and watching what I ate. I still fasted (for the most part), but not nearly as strict as I should have. Flash forward several months later, I’m back at 200lbs.
For those of you who know me, you might be thinking, “Well you’re 6’2″! 200 is pretty normal, isn’t it?”
Well, no. Especially when it’s mostly fat. Belly fat. You know, the really sexy attractive kind of fat.
So, a couple months ago, I started to eat healthy…ish. I snacked less, ate a bit healthier, cut back on the drinking, exercised, all the stuff you’d assume would “work”. But all it did for me was cause fluctuation, jumping back and forth between 198lb and 202lb. That didn’t feel good.
So just recently, 5 days ago in fact, I decided to REALLY change how I look at food, and start a new diet—no—a better way of life.
I don’t like diets. No one does. I mean, technically, a diet is just the set of foods you eat habitually, so everyone is technically on a diet. But I really hate going on diets. For a few reasons…
Diets are temporary. At least, that’s what it often feels like. Most people have a mindset where they think “I’m going to give up x, y, and z foods until I’m at the weight I want to be.” There’s almost always an end to the diet. Which makes me ask…if this diet is really healthy, why stop?
Diets aren’t usually healthy. Most “diet plans” for weight loss are generally not good for you. They either involve a complete depletion in carbohydrates, fats, or other essential nutrients. Further, they’re never well defined – what carbs are good or bad? What fats are good or bad? What vitamins and minerals do I need?
It’s because of this, most of us hit a wall in our weight loss, or move slowly.
A lot of diets are just wrong. I’ll get to this a little later in this post. But generally speaking, most diets are simply inaccurate, false. Sometimes by omission, or sometimes by straight up falsehoods.
Working out sucks. Ok ok ok, working out is really good for you. But when it comes to weight loss, it’s pretty much unreliable. Why?
“Calories in, calories out” is a lie. This idea that you need to watch your calories, and simply burn more than what you eat is a generalization, and generally false. You can’t tell me that you can successfully lose weight and be healthy by eating 2000 calories of ice cream, and burn 2500 calories and lose 2lbs a week. It just doesn’t work that way.
The most important thing you can do for weight loss is get healthy. Diet shmiet. Again, most diets lack in some area; they often require a complete depletion of one or more essential nutrients, which is unsustainable.
Instead, the focus should be on getting healthy first, then losing the weight.
What is ketosis? Ketosis is when your body’s level of ketones is raised, causing your body to be almost completely fueled by fat. This includes fats you eat, and the fat stored in your body.
What are ketones? Ketones are basically the natural fuel source for the body and the brain. They’re produced by the liver from fat, and are used for fuel when the amount of sugar in the blood (glucose) is low.
What is glucose? Glucose is sugar. It’s the sugar our body can also get its energy from. In fact, when you consume carbohydrates, your insulin releases into the blood to stimulate the liver and muscle tissue, and to store excess glucose. It helps the body convert carbohydrates to glucose for energy, and store glucose as fat.
Wait, what’s insulin? Insulin is a hormone the way our body uses food for energy. It helps the cells in our bodies distribute nutrients like fat and glucose, and use them for energy. Every time you eat, insulin is produced. The problem is, when you consume too much glucose – or carbohydrates – your body can become insulin resistant.
What’s insulin resistance? Basically, your body’s ability to process glucose is inhibited. As a result, your body stores the glucose as fat, and the amount of energy you get from glucose doesn’t last very long. Too much insulin resistance can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is the reason people with diabetes need to take insulin shots – so the body can properly process glucose.
What’s all this mean? Well, as you slowly develop resistance to insulin, your body can’t process your foods properly and stores it as fat. This is why you feel tired after eating a large meal, or crash a few hours after eating something rich in carbs or sugar.
It’s also likely the reason you plateau in your diet. You’re simply not getting the nutrients to repair your body’s insulin resistance.
How can you repair your body’s resistance to insulin? In comes ketosis. When you cut down on carbs and rely on healthy fats and proteins for energy, your body stops relying on insulin/glucose, and will therefor rely on ketones – which break down fat for energy.
The ketogenic diet is a way of eating to promote the use of ketones for energy, allowing you to quit storing fat in your body, and allow you to start using the fat in your body for energy.
Does it work? If you mean “does it really cause weight loss”, then YES. It does. And it works fast. How fast? I’ve lost 7lbs in 5 days. Now, most of that is probably water-weight, BUT…this is the fastest I’ve ever lost weight on any diet and/or exercise plan.
Is it safe? For most people, yes! You probably shouldn’t be on a super strict ketogenic diet if you’re pregnant, have type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes.
However, you can still be on a very similar diet and avoid risk, and get similar results. If you’re concerned, ideally you should talk to your doctor.
How’s it work? What do I need to do?
The general idea here is to limit your carb intake by only eating carbs from nutritious, natural foods – like kale, spinach, mixed greens, and other healthy vegetables – while increasing your fat and protein intake. The result is lasting energy throughout the day, and body-fat loss.
Now, there are a few ketogenic diet plans out there. The most extreme, and often advertised, is a total carb intake of 20grams per day. (This is where it becomes less than ideal depending on your current health conditions). Personally, I’m not a fan of this method. It feels to extreme, and can lead to feeling ill as your body adjusts from the immediate drop in glucose.
What I’ve found to work well for me so far is limiting my total carb intake to around 50 grams per day, but net around 20.
What are net carbs? “Net carbs” are the total amount of carbs you’ve eaten minus the amount of fiber. For example, yesterday, I had 40 grams of carbs, 21 of which came from fiber, leaving me with 19 net carbs.
Time to get specific
The thing about the ketogenic diet, is it’s very specific. Unlike atkins or paleo, there’s no “blanket method”. It’s not just about cutting carbs or just eating organic foods. What matters is the amount of nutrients your body gets.
Carbohydrates – This depends mostly on your health. I’ve found the easiest and most effective way to manage this is by paying attention to sugar and net carbs. Usually, fruits and vegetables rich in sugar have very little fiber; whatever amount of fiber exists in high sugar foods is usually not enough to prevent that sugar from being stored as fat. Since the idea is to lessen the need for insulin and glucose, it’s best to keep that sugar low. So, foods like apples, corn, potatoes, beets, and even bananas are not great for the diet. Even peas are no good! Why? Because they’re high in sugar and low in fiber.
Instead, carbs should come from deep greens like spinach, mixed greens and lettuce (not iceberg), and even some fiber-rich berries.
Protein – You should have just the right amount of protein. Not too much, not too little. It’ll vary depending on your weight. The practice is to have no less than 0.6kb per pound, and no more than 1 gram per pound. 1 gram per pound is only if you’re working out like mad. 0.6kg/lb is more for when you’re fairly sedentary. My personal goal is to find somewhere in the middle. Doing the math, my goal is no more than 115g a day.
Fat – I’m not going to say “eat however much you want.” In fact, you should limit yourself in fat, too. Just like anything, too much of one thing can be dangerous. And depending on your health and health issues, you may want to be conservative with the amount of fat you take in.
There are three main things to be aware of when it comes to fat: how much fat, the source of the fat, and the type of fat.
I typically try to eat around 100g of fat a day. Now, I’m not sitting there doing shots of melted butter just to get to 90g-100g. If I don’t hit that amount, it’s no biggie. It can be tough! In fact, it’s more important to be eating nutrient rich greens than to be trying to eat a butt load of fat. On average per meal, I have anywhere between 20-30g of fat.
When it comes to the source of the fat, I try to eat grassfed, pasture raised, organic fatty foods. Kerrigold butter, extra virgin olive oil, pasture raised eggs and pultry, fish, and grassfed meats are all contain good, healthy fat. Now, I don’t actively try to eat meat, and eating meat and dairy is NOT required. You could definitely do this diet entirely vegetarian or vegan.
My biggest source of fat right now is avocados. I love avocados; they taste great, but more importantly, they’re super nutritious. They’re loaded with potassium, fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I eat 1 or 2 avocados every day.
You should avoid processed and trans fat. These kinds of fats can not only lead to fatty livers and stunt fat loss, but they can be detrimental to your health. Overly excessive fat intake, especially from trans fats, can lead to too many triglycerides in the blood, which can lead to deadly conditions like pancreatitis.
Potassium – yes, potassium intake is crucial here, too. Part of weight gain includes the retention of water. Water retention happens when you drink water and consume a lot of sodium, or aren’t getting enough potassium. Potassium is found in many greens and fruits, and well help you drop the water weight – and keep it off.
But, this is where it can get tricky. The recommended daily intake of potassium is between 4700-5100mg. That’s like eating 12 bananas. Who wants to eat 12 bananas? I don’t.
Potassium goals are HARD to meet. But not impossible. 1 avocado contains about 700mg-1100mg of potassium. 1 cup of raw spinach contains about 160mg. 1 cup of kale contains about 330mg. If you prepare yourself a couple well balanced salads with deep greens and avocado, or perhaps make a smoothie out of these kinds of ingredients, you can come close to or even meet that potassium goal.
Other nutrients – as I said before, a lot of this is going to depend on your body and current health. This is the same for other vitamins and minerals. I can guarantee that if you do this diet correctly, you’ll likely surpass your vitamin A and C daily needs. For anything else, you should check with your doctor. A blood test can quickly reveal any vitamin deficiencies or over-abundances you may have. Your diet should support your bodies real needs.
How often to eat – this is also important. It’s often recommended you eat 4-6 times a day. The problem with this is every time you eat, your body produces insulin, which – again – promotes glucose-based energy and fat gain. Instead, you should be fasting.
Now there are a lot of misconceptions about intermittent fasting. Just like everything else, how you fast, and the amount of times you eat a day will vary depending on your health. For me, I eat twice a day, because that’s when I’m hungry. I don’t typically get hungry in the morning. I usually start to feel hungry around noon; so, I eat a big meal at noon. I’m usually good for about 6 or 7 hours, which is when I have my last meal. That meal is also quite large.
The key thing with intermittent fasting – and I encourage you to do your own research – is by eating less often, you’re producing less insulin and therefor producing more ketones throughout the day, allowing your body to burn fat in between meals.
If you’re snacking before or after your meals, you’re simply increasing your insulin levels, and making it harder to burn fat. This being yet another reason most people plateau in weight loss. Which brings me to my final point…
Don’t get me wrong. We all get on diets and workout plans to lose weight and look good. But the thing that should be understood, is it’s important to be healthy first. Being overweight is usually a sign you’re body is damaged in some way, and your focus should be on repair.
Again, the ketogenic diet is super healthy, but the extent in which you take it is dependent on your body’s needs. And that’s something determined by you and your doctor.
Focusing on health and nutritional needs will ultimately cause natural weight loss. Ketogenic diets consisting of nutritious foods are great for this. I feel energized, level-headed, dropping water weight, and burning fat constantly.
I’ll try and update my blog with more info on the diet and how things are going. I’m obviously early on in the diet, but I’m quite pleased with how quickly I’m seeing results, and how energized I feel.