The Ketogenic (or Keto) Diet consists of high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate intake. A sample macro-nutrient profile for a Keto diet is around 70% Fat, 25% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrates. Macro-nutrients are Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate; any food you eat will fall into 1 (or more) or these nutrient categories. There are many different schools of thought on an ideal marco-nutrient ratio for Keto, but the general principles are very low carbohydrate intake, and a majority of your calories coming from fat.
Contrast Keto with the marco-nutrient ratio of My Plate.gov, which is around 75% carbohydrate (see grain, vegetables, and fruits) with the remaining allocation to “protein” and “dairy”.
For my Keto experiment, the only macro-nutrients I am going to count will be carbohydrates and protein. My target carbohydrate intake during my keto diet is going to be 20 grams per day, which is a recommendation I picked up from pod caster and author Jimmy Moore (here is Jimmy’s website). Jimmy recommends starting at 20 grams per day to find your carbohydrate tolerance while on Keto. Is 20 grams per day realistic for me? I don’t know yet, but I will found out.
To keep protein intake “moderate”, I am going to set a target cap of 90 grams of protein per day. The general RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. I weigh around 90 kilograms as of starting the program, and I am going to set my protein a little bit higher because I exercise 5 days per week. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, 90 grams of protein puts me at around 20% of calories from protein, which falls within the range for Keto.
Why moderate protein on Keto? Protein and amino acids are essential for cell structure, function, regulation, and other important metabolic functions. If you consume more protein than is required to meet these functions, your body will convert the extra protein into sugar (glucose) via a process called Gluconeogenesis. This extra blood glucose will end up being stored as fat, if it is not used for energy during exercise/activity.
Will I be eating 2,000 calories? Maybe more, or maybe less? I have no idea, and I have no intention of counting calories (or fat intake) for my keto experiment. Based on the goal of achieving nutritional ketosis and using fat as fuel, I will count and set a cap (see above) for carbs and protein intake.
The Keto Diet and Fat as Fuel
Why are people interested in the Keto diet anyway, isn’t eating too much fat bad for you? This blog series will not get into the topic of dietary fat recommendations, however I do acknowledge that the Keto diet goes against what most of us were taught in school when it comes to “healthy” food groups and percentage of macro-nutrients. The main objective to a Keto diet is to train your body to use fat (in the form of blood Ketones) as fuel, rather than blood glucose (sugar).
For my experience with the Keto diet, I am not going in with any weight loss or body composition goals. I am more interested in documentation of how I feel, and if this style of eating helps me sustain energy levels for work and exercise. As with my previous series about Whole 30 and Anti Inflammatory Diet, I will include some before and after stats just to help view the whole picture of any benefits that I experience.
*Important to note, I will not be measuring blood sugar or blood ketone levels during this Keto Diet experiment. As such, I will have no way to demonstrate whether or not I am in ketosis, and my results will be purely based on how I feel.
The Keto Diet and Frequency of Meals
The nature of the Keto Diet and using Fat as fuel naturally lends itself to intermittent fasting, or going longer periods of time between meals. The main reason for this is that higher fat meals (which are low in carbs) do not trigger a significant production/high levels of insulin, and spike in blood sugar. The steep rise in blood sugar and high insulin production associated with a high carbohydrate meal results in significant peaks and valleys when it comes to energy level, and hunger cravings.
Using Fat (ketones) as fuel, lends itself to lower blood sugar levels following a meal/in between meals, and as such does not result in the intense hunger cravings associated with higher carbohydrate meals. The body’s response of insulin and blood sugar following high carb meals can also contribute to what people refer to as “the food coma” following lunch time. The food coma is a sluggish feeling during the hours following lunch, often resulting in someone reaching for a snack, or afternoon coffee to summon enough energy make it through the end of the day.
The Adaption Period
Since you are training your body to use fat (rather than sugar) as your main fuel/energy source, there will be an adjustment period when shifting to a Ketogenic Diet. Depending on many factors, your adaptation phase can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks (or longer). While your body may technically enter Ketosis within a short period of time, it will take a longer period of time following the Keto Diet to become “Keto/Fat Adapted”. This Healthline Article goes into a little more detail about the adaptation phase.
You can measure blood sugar and blood ketones (if you feel so inclined) to help determine if you are in ketosis, however adaptation is going to be more of a feeling than a measurable number. If you are Keto/Fat adapted, you should experience less hunger between meals, fewer (if any) cravings for sugar/carbs, more sustained energy and focus, all while staying in ketosis. From this example, if you jump right into the Keto Diet and measure blood ketones to demonstrate you are in ketosis on day 2, but you still have intense hunger cravings in between meals, you are probably not adapted to using fat as fuel.
My Adaptation Process
It is important to note if you are planning to follow along with my blog posts for informational purposes, at the time of writing this post I have spent around 2 months conditioning myself for fat adaptation. In July, I completed a Whole 30 program, and I have just finished a month following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. What does this 2 month period have in common? No Grain, Added Sugar, Alcohol, Legumes during this time period. During the final week of my Anti Inflammatory Diet, I also experimented with more Keto type meals, and intentionally kept carbs lower.
I feel it is important to provide the context that I will not be starting my Keto Diet and at the same time rapidly transitioning from the Food Pyramid/My Plate diet which recommends grains at every meal. Jumping into Keto with both feet coming out of a Standard American Diet (SAD) would lead to a very uncomfortable adaptation phases, and I dare say a lower likelihood of compliance.
Keto Diet Yes and No Foods
Another principle followed by most who subscribe to a Keto diet is incorporating real food, and cutting out processed food. Based on the need to limit carbohydrates, and incorporate real food, here are some examples of food and drink on my no list during Keto:
- Processed/added sugar
- Artificial sweetener
- Dairy, besides butter and hard cheese (most other dairy has high lactose)
- Processed oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, trans fats, etc)
Fruit will be in the “use sparingly” category, being mindful of the naturally occurring sugars and high carb content.
Here are some foods and drinks I will be consuming on a regular basis:
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Other vegetables (monitoring for sugar and carb content)
- Healthy added fats (Olive oil, Coconut oil, Avocado mayo)
- Hard cheese
- Nuts and nut butters
- Bone broth
Structure of posts
I will include posts as a summary each week which will include meal logs (with carb and protein levels), my exercise log for the week, challenges, and tips. Look forward to updating you on how it is going, comment if you have any thoughts or questions!