I’ve been accused of listening to one too many JRE podcasts and being a bit fanatical following the cult of Joe Rogan. This article isn’t going to do me any favors as I wouldn’t have even known what ketogenic meant without hearing it over and over again. So I decided to give a ketogenic diet a go and here are my thoughts.
First off…What is a ketogenic diet?
Basically, the ketogenic diet in a nutshell is Carbs =Bad, Fat = Good. The premise is that the modern diet consists of entirely too many carbohydrates (and subsequently sugar) and we should be getting the majority of our calories from healthy fats. Eating this way puts your body into ketosis and by the wonders of science that I don’t pretend to understand this allows your body to more efficiently run off fat and apparently makes your brain gooder also. It is also supposed to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels and advertised as great for diabetics.
This is just a snapshot so hopefully you get the basic idea. There are some great resources online that do a much better job of diving into the science so feel free to research away.
‘Types’ of Keto
There are a few common variations of ketogenic diets you should be aware of. They are:
- Straight Keto – Say goodbye to carbs my friend. Typically the ratio is 75% Fats, 20% Protein and 5% Carbs.
- High Protein Keto – Same as above but you get more protein. Typically the ratio is 60% Fats, 35% Protein and 5% Carbs.
- Carb Cycling Keto – You follow the keto diet but you ‘refeed’. Typically, this might look 3-5 days keto followed by a day where carbs are back in the mix. Just quietly this is a glorious day.
- Targeted Carb Cycling Keto – Ketogenic diet however you strategically eat carbs around heavy workouts.
What I did?
I tried keto for approximately 2 months with varying levels of commitment. I tried for 1 month flat out and relaxed for the second. For my keto experience, I combined the high protein (gainz bro) and carb cycling keto diets. The basic formula was Mon-Wed = Keto, Thur = Refeed, Fri-Sun = Keto with my Saturday night looking more and more like a cheat meal in that second month.
Another important factor to understand with keto is a view of your level of physical activity. In my experience and experiences of others how much and what type of exercise you undertake will greatly impact how keto effects (or affects – i can never figure those two out) you. I fit pretty firmly in the weekend warrior/wannabe athlete section. I train 6 days a week including 2-3 strength & conditioning sessions and some form of martial arts everyday (except Sunday – even Craig David chills on Sunday).
A hell of a lot of promises are made with the keto diet and to be honest most of them were true. In my experience, most of what people said would happen, happened. Which is great…we were off to a good start.
⊗ Keto Flu – The keto flu is the period directly after starting a ketogenic diet. From what I understand this is your body breaking it’s addiction to carbs/sugars and learning to run on the alternate fuel source i.e. fat. You may experience flu like symptoms as well as strong cravings. For me I didn’t really notice it…I already ate very little processed sugars so if you love your lollies and sugar drinks it might hit you harder.
⊕ Weight Loss – The weight melted off of me and I maintained most of my muscle mass. Over the first month I lost approximately 5 kgs. For perspective typically I’m the type of guy that will piss you off about how fast I gain muscle mass while you pity how much of a tubby boy I am.
⊕ Mental Clarity – This one sounded like a load of bullshit but I was wrong. On the keto diet my mind was noticeably clearer. That pre coffee fog vanished and my mental state was much more consistent over the day.
⊕ Energy/Crash – Similarly to the mental state my energy levels stayed constant throughout the day. There were no afternoon naps, energy dips and no crash.
⊗ Hunger – This one could be a positive dependant on your perspective. On ketogenic diet I was never hungry. Sure, I wanted to eat but that starving feeling was gone. Consequently I found it hard to eat enough calories for the amount of exercise I was doing.
⊗ Last 5% – This is/was my biggest critcism for a pure ketogenic diet and may affect you depending on what type of exercise you enjoy. Pure weight lifting I had no problems…I imagine for things like long distance running and sports not requiring explosive movements you would experience similar results. However, at my martial arts (especially during sparring and rolling) I hit a wall. Commonly referred to as ’embracing the grind’ there is a point where you need to push and get that extra explosive movement. The longer I stayed on a ketogenic diet the more I found that once I ran out of energy…it was gone. There was no second wind and no pushing through. It is recommended you don’t train for the first 2 weeks of keto (I ignored this advice) to allow your body to adapt however i found even after a month I didn’t have it…whatever it was.
This is only my personal opinion and I’m admittedly an idiot however, for athletes, a pure ketogenic diet is going to make life hard. Athletes…even wannabe athletes need carbs for fuel. You need to replace the glycogen (holy shit he’s using science words) in your muscles if you want to be explosive. This seems to be pretty consistent with what I’ve read.
This doesn’t mean I have abandoned keto. The results were too amazing to ignore. Like most things in life I use it in moderation. For my periodised lighter sessions/weeks (I’ll get into that in another article) I lower my carbs and when I have a big training session planned I eat more carbs before and after. Sure I don’t get the full ongoing effects however that energy is there when I need it. I will keep messing with the ketogenic diet and post an update article in another 6 months or so.
Feel free to share your experience in the comments. I probably won’t read them but go nuts…