Trying out different diets is one of my hobbies. For me, it's not about weight loss; I just find it interesting how different foods can have an effect on the way my body feels.
For the next 45 days, I will be trying very low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat foods. This is known as ketogenic diet or keto.
Ketogenic diet is unique by the fact that your carbohydrates intake has to be so low, that your body goes into ketoses. Ketosis is a state, where your body switches from using glucose for energy to using fats. When water fasting, I estimate that it took my body about 2 days to switch into full blown ketosis. While on this diet, it might take me up to two weeks to get there, as I will still be consuming some carbs and protein.
I have been planning to try keto ever since I completed my 29-day water fast in 2017. Throughout most of the last year, my intake of carbohydrates was relatively low, but I doubt my body ever switched into full ketosis mode.
Since I came back from a weekend camping break five days ago, I have been consuming very low-carb, high-fat food. In fact, my fat intake was actually too high, so I guess will have to cut down on that butter a little :)
For the last four days I have been consuming up to four eggs a day, also roughly about 200 grams of mushrooms, a bunch of spinach and cherry tomatoes, two to four rashes of bacon or some minced beef. I also use about a 100 grams of butter, and 200 grams of double cream. I don't eat more than twice a day as I am also trying to stick to my circadian cycle. I also drink A LOT of nettle tea - starting four hours after I wake up, I only consume water until then.
If you're curious about circadian cycle, check out this fascinating Dr. Rhonda Patrick's video interview with Dr. Satchin Panda.
Tomorrow, I am starting a new walking routine (old one was mistakingly discontinued while I was setting up this website!), and it will be interesting to see how this new diet interacts with my performance. I am aware that I shouldn't expect any increase in performance until several weeks have passed, and my body has switched to full ketosis. So far, I feel great and have only mild withdrawal symptoms from all those lovely hand-made butter biscuits and smoothie ice creams I stuffed when camping!
The reason I chose to try this diet for 45 days, is because at the end of May I am planning to walk a 65 mile walk from Ramsgate to Rye (Rye is where I live in East Sussex, UK), and I am not yet sure how I'm going to plan my meals throughout this hike.
45 days does not seem like a fair trial for a diet that only "kicks in" after two weeks, so if I do feel like I want to continue for another month, I'll just have to sort something out - and check for some local egg and bacon places on my way.
Ideally, if I am still happy to continue after 45 days, I would like to take it to 60 or even eighty days - this will give me a better chance to experience those keto effects that may only become noticeable after a longer period of time.
My goal is to test ketogenic diet on several aspects:
Even though weight loss is not intended here, I could do with a little better fat/muscle balance, and I'm hoping Keto will help me with this.
Ketogenic diet is delicious with all that fat, and as a sworn fat lover I have always liked the idea of it. My only reservations are for the fact that good healthy root vegetables such as beetroot and carrots have to be avoided if you want to stay in ketosis. I guess I will just have to do without my carrot juice for a while.
Same goes for fruit, even low sugar fruits like grapefruits have a high enough carb content to kick you out of ketosis if you eat more than one. I will still be using lemon, (I love a slice of lemon with fresh fried cod!) but not more than a few slices a day. Overall, I guess the only thing I may not like about keto, is that a number of certain fruit vegetables you can eat becomes limited. Even the intake of such micronutrient powerhouses as broccoli and brussels sprouts become a little too limited for my taste. All I can say is, at least in vegetable case, I was very pleased to find out that you can still eat plenty of zucchini! Also, with summer comes salad time, and lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs are in no way endangered enough to stop me from having giant bowls of salad with my steak while on this diet.
All meats and dairy are allowed in Keto, however certain dairy products like cheese have to be limited due to its carb content. As previously mentioned, most root vegetables are a no-no, while most that grow above ground like tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and all dark leafy greens are a good choice while on keto. Asparagus, onions and brussels sprouts can also be included in this diet, only in moderation. Also, mushrooms! Mushrooms are awesome - they are very low carb and can be combined with almost anything to make a tasty meal! In the last five days, while eating strictly ketogenic foods, I used at least 500 grams of mushrooms.
Another crucial part of my nutrition is eggs. I eat 2 to 4 eggs a day, every day and I have been doing it for at least a month. Eggs are a real powerhouse food, whether you're on ketogenic diet or not. Eggs are enriched with at least 9 essential fatty acids and vast amounts of micronutrients. Selenium, Riboflavin, Choline, Folate, and Phosphorus are all present in good quantities, also vitamins A, B5, B12, and less significant amounts of vitamins K, E, D, Calcium, and Zinc.
What about all that cholesterol? Unlike processes fats, dietary cholesterol has little effect on our overall bad cholesterol levels. In fact, studies show that long term ketogenic diet had a significantly beneficial effect on LDL (bad) cholesterol level. However, there are som hyper-responders who react to dietary cholesterol more drastically than others. The difference though is that both their LDL (bad) and HDL (good cholesterol) overall particle size becomes larger after starting regular egg consumption.
According to berkeleywelness.com, studies show, that people whose overall LDL particle size was smaller, had three times greater risk of coronary heart disease.
"Several years ago, research from the University of Connecticut found that eating three eggs a day for 30 days increased cholesterol in susceptible people, but their LDL particles were larger, and there was no change in the ratio between LDL and HDL, which suggests no major change in coronary risk. In a more recent study from the same university, published in Metabolism in late 2012, 40 middle-aged people with heart and diabetes risk factors ate either three eggs or cholesterol-free egg substitute daily, while also moderately restricting carbohydrates. After 12 weeks, total and LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol did not change in either group. Moreover, though both groups showed a range of cholesterol improvements due to the carb restriction, the egg eaters had a greater boost in HDL (“good”) cholesterol as well as increases in sizes of both HDL and LDL particles, which was attributed, at least in part, to types of fat in eggs called phospholipids.
Many recent studies have looked into the importance of LDL-particle size. Studies show that people whose LDL particles are predominantly small and dense, have a threefold greater risk of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, the large and fluffy type of LDL may be protective."
However, even with all this information, if all of a sudden you significantly change your diet, it's best to have your blood work done every 6 months, just to be on the safe side of things. I believe in balance: too much of anything can do you harm. Ever heard of death by carrot juice? Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health-food advocate from Croydon, UK died after consuming ten gallons of carrot juice in ten days, causing him to overdose on Vitamin A and suffer severe liver damage. Does that mean we should avoid carrot juice? Absolutely not. It means, be reasonable and consume everything in moderation.
I'm not a fan of milk. I never was - but I do love a good brie or camembert! While milk is completely absent from my diet, I use butter close to every day, cheese several times a month (rough estimate) and full-fat double cream once or twice a week. This is not some plan that I concocted; it's just the way I eat. Sometimes, I abandon cream for half a year or longer; sometimes I have more cheese. For this diet, I will try to keep my dairy intake as is and get most of my fats from meat, eggs and olive, hemp, and coconut oils.
While dairy can be a good source of nutrients, I get put off by the fact that cows milk is actually intended to feed a growing calf, and as such, it's loaded with hormones to help it grow into a big strong cow at a very fast rate.
The only time I increased my dairy intake was when I was a vegetarian. My skin was nice and clean the first two months, but once I increased my dairy consumption, my chin became covered in spots. From then on, I decided to keep my dairy as it was before - limited.
Eventually, I'd like to cut dairy out of my permanent diet all together, as I am not fully convinced that its consumption has any positive effect on my health.
Keto diet, in essence, is similar to Atkins diet. There are two main differences between those two:
Why limit protein? Apparently, consuming too much protein can kick you out of ketosis. This is because our bodies convert excessive protein into glycogen. The right amount of protein to stay in ketosis differs from individual to individual. Primary factors that determine protein consumption to stay in ketosis are your activity levels and your body weight. The more active you are, the more protein your body needs to consume.
No diet is a miracle. Every now and then one choice of foods becomes more popular than others, and one choice of diet prevails over another. Some people do great on vegetarian or even vegan diets. Vegetarianism certainly did not work well for me. Am I a firm believer in Keto before even trying it? No. Keto is drastically switching your body into a completely different state of functioning - this is something everyone should be wary about.
Ketogenic diet might have a very positive effect on many people, but let's not forget that everyone's body is different. Ketosis is essentially a starvation state, and the amount of studies on this diet so far is not overwhelming. While there is plenty of evidence on its effectiveness in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease, fat loss, muscle gain, etc - there is also plenty of evidence that for some people it actually be a dangerous diet choice.
Elimination of all carbs is a drastic change in most peoples diet, and as such, should be monitored closely. If you ever don't feel like the diet you continued for over four weeks is right for you, stop relying on it. If any significantly bad reactions occur past day 7, also discontinue. This might be the most important thing I ever learned about diets: while there are plenty of people who might have different experiences from yours, you are your best monitor - never forget this!
I will keep updating my progress on this diet every two weeks or so, and write about my full experience once I complete at least 45 days. If I decide to extend this experiment further, my final report will be drafted around the date when I discontinue this diet.
Currently, I am not calculating my calories, but I intend to change it. I know I usually consume below 20g of carbs, 50g - 60g of protein, and between 130g to 160g of fats. As stated before, I do not necessarily intend to lose weight, but I most certainly would like to improve on my fat/muscle ratio - unfortunately, I am not even sure what my current ratio is! I intend to buy a scale which includes this function, then I can share my results.
If you are curious about keto diet or intend to try it for yourself, here are some resources:
ketogenic-diet-resource.com - the whole website dedicated to ketogenic diet
authoritynutrition.com - short introduction to ketogenic diet
Also, don't forget to read some cautionary articles and be aware that this diet does not always suit everyone.
Here are two simple concoctions I enjoy for my keto.
I like to cut up my bacon into small pieces, fry it in butter with mushrooms, then throw in some cherry tomatoes. Once it's cooked enough, I turn the heat off and mix in a bunch of spinach while a pan is still warm. I use a good amount of butter for each such fry, usually about 50g. Then I make myself a very raw scrambled egg out of four eggs and some cream. I'm not normally the one to eat the same food every day, but boy am I getting addicted to this!
I also like making a sauce out of about 200g of button mushrooms, one large onion, some bean sprouts and 200ml of double cream. I fry mushrooms, onions and bean sprouts in butter then pour a double cream over and keep it on low heat until cream becomes nice and thick. Yum! This is especially nice with cod and a slice of lemon over it!
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