This post is a summary of a 4 week Keto Diet program I completed, with top tips and observations. If you have not had a chance to following along with my posts, please take a few moments to look at the introduction and summary post. In particular, the introduction post is helpful to give you an idea of why people try the Keto Diet, and also outlines the parameters I followed during the Keto Diet.
Before and After: 4 Weeks of Keto
Before: 196.2 lbs
After: 195.8 lbs
*Both photos and weights taken after a morning run.
Before: (best 4 sets of a workout): 225 x 5,5,5; 255×3- Total work (total weight x total reps)= 4,140 lbs
After: 225 x 5,5,5,5- Total work= 4,500 lbs
Before: 4.9 miles, no breaks, 48:12.
After: Same 4.9 mile loop, no breaks, 44:30.
*Please see thoughts about this running improvement under Keto and exercise.
Best Pull Up Set
Keto and Exercise
Can you exercise on Keto? Don’t you need carbs for energy? These are common questions which arise, and I put them to the test during my 4 week programs. In basic terms, there are certain types of exercise which are well suited to using ketones as fuel. These are sub-maximal exercises which are aerobic (with oxegen) in nature, for example:
Exercises/sports which require maximal strength and power output and are anaerobic (without oxygen) in nature are not well suited to be fueled by blood ketones, examples include:
- Power Lifting
- Track and Field Throws
What I found is that my jogging and walking felt great on Keto, and I believe this is based on the type of exercise it is and being more aerobic in nature. On the other hand, weightlifting was ok in the beginning when I was shooting for 20 grams of carbs daily, but it wasn’t great. I found that by increasing my total carbs to between 30-40 grams per day (which is still very low), I found that my weight lifting felt much better, and I still felt the benefits of ketosis on my walks and jogs.
So, for me, I was able to be quite successful exercising while on Keto, and also needed to be mindful to add some carbs back in based on my frequency, intensity, and type of exercise.
A Word on Measuring Progress/Success
The reason I included many before and after comparisons as part of my post is to encourage anyone reading this to think holistically about health and well-being when trying out any new plan/routine. Using weight on a scale alone can be a popular measure of success, and it certainly has its place in helping to document progress related to lifestyle changes. However, it is possible for you to not lose any weight, or even gain a pound or two over a period of time, but still be making progress.
For my example, I did not lose any weight to speak of on Keto, and this does not surprise me for a few reasons. One reason is that I was not trying to lose weight, in other words I was not intentionally restricting the amount of food I ate with the goal of weight loss. Reason number two is that I have been following a theme of eating real food and cutting out junk for about 3 months, and at the time I started Keto I had already lost around 13 lbs. I did not measure body composition to know for sure about fat loss, but I am making an educated guess that I lost mostly fat based on my photos and the fact that my strength numbers improved.
Other ideas to help measure progress/success could be:
- Waist circumference.
- How clothing fits.
- Body composition/body fat %.
- Food journal.
- Exercise journal.
In spite of what you may have heard, Keto is not intended to be a weight loss diet; the main purpose of eating Keto is to use Fat/Ketone bodies as fuel, rather than Sugar/Blood glucose. So, the main benefit of Keto is metabolic flexibility, training your body to efficiently use fat as fuel. Weight loss can be a result/added benefit of Keto, but this is not the main purpose/objective.
I certainly experienced the benefits of Ketosis during my 4 weeks; I felt very sustained energy levels throughout each day, with no peaks and valleys. During aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging, I felt I needed to put in less effort for the same results, which I believe was a result of being in Ketosis and using fat as fuel during this sub-maximal exercise.
Being able to eat to satiety (being full) and not experiencing hunger cravings in between meals was an excellent perk of eating Keto. I did not find myself overeating at any point during my Keto program. On the same topic, intermittent fasting was MUCH easier to adhere to while eating Keto, I attribute this to not having the peaks and valleys of blood sugar/insulin levels associated with more high carb meals*.
*This is completely my own educated guess, based on how I felt during my 4 week Keto Diet and the science behind this way of eating. I did not measure my insulin, blood glucose, or ketone levels at any point.
My Top Keto Tips
Use a food journal. This will help you keep track of your macro-nutrients day to day, and will allow you to reflect back on trends, and also compare how you are feeling with what you have been eating recently. Using a food journal helped me make a slight adjustment to my daily carb intake during Keto, and also helped me spot an early trend that packaged snacks were setting me up to be over my daily protein target.
Use google to help you find nutrition facts for foods you are eating which do not have a label. Ideally, you will be eating a lot of foods which are fresh/not packaged, so this will be a helpful tool. For example, if you build a plate at a buffet (like I did at a family wedding), you can google search the nutrition facts of each food, and estimate your portions to calculate nutrient content. This will not be perfect, but it will help you with a general idea if you are hitting target carb and protein totals each day.
You may not need supplement with protein if eating Keto, you can easily achieve the moderate amount which is recommended from dietary sources (as I found out during my 4 week program). Supplementing may actually put you over the recommended moderate intake if you are eating meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and other sources of protein daily. Now, if you are trying to do vegetarian or vegan Keto, perhaps you may look into protein supplementation, especially if you exercise.
If you are trying to eat Keto/achieve Ketosis, try making food choices that have most of their calories coming from fat. Some basic nutrition for you, here are the number of calories per gram of the three macro-nutrients:
- Carbs: 4 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
To look at the breakdown of where calories come from, you can simply multiply the serving (how many grams) of each marco-nutrient in your food by the numbers above, and look at what % calories are coming from. A way you can accomplish this higher fat ratio, is adding fat from real food sources if your meal is naturally higher in protein or carbs by itself. For example, my Coleslaw; by adding some slices of bacon, cheddar cheese, and dressing with avocado mayo, I created a meal that is higher in fat content as compared to protein or carbs.
Bulletproof Coffee: The idea behind Keto is using fat for fuel/energy, so a coffee can be a great medium for quality fats. There are many ways to make this coffee (pictured below in favorite meals), the basic concept is butter and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil in coffee. Coconut oil is a source of MCT, so I used one spoon of that, one spoon grass fed butter and a little sea salt, used milk frother to combine. A word of caution, if you don’t use the milk frother or a blender, you get an oil slick on top of your coffee.
The drink pictured contains 0 sugar, 0 carb, and around 230 calories if you are counting, which is significantly less than most latte/ cappuccino drinks.
- The adaptation period can be a challenge, especially if you eat foods that are highly processed on a regular basis. Approaching the adaptation phase slowing can be helpful (see section below for more on the adaptation phase).
- Planning meals can be a challenge, since carbs and protein are kept at relatively low levels compared to what most people are accustomed to.
- Getting over the stigma of eating higher fat foods can be challenging. It helps to do some research before trying out the Keto plan, and make sure you understand and are comfortable with the science behind it.
- Meal planning while going out to eat and/or at events can be a challenge for sure. It helps to look at menu’s in advance if you are going out to eat, and even ask the restaurant/venue to make a slight adjustment to a meal if needed.
My Favorite Keto Meals
A word on Keto adaptation
If you have not had a chance to look at my Introduction post to learn about the Keto adaptation phase, it is linked here. Keto adaptation is very important to understand if you are thinking about trying the Keto Diet, you need to transition your body to burning (primarily) fat as fuel in the form of Ketones.
Think about the adaptation phase the way you would exercising, we will use running for an example. Let’s say you have not been running regularly, and decide you want to train for a 5 or 10 kilometre road race. What do you think would be a better way to approach your training:
- Start with walking or light jogging a manageable distance, while monitoring how your body responds and gradually increasing your pace over time? Or…
- Jump right off your couch and run as far as you can, as fast as you can?
I hope you took option number 1…is it possible to train for a race by jumping in full throttle? Sure, it is possible….it is also possible that your body will become stiff and sore, your morale will be low, and you will be unlikely to complete your training and run your race.
Think about Keto adaptation with the same mindset, because you are attempting to train your body to use a different fuel source, and at first it will not like it. Applying the same logic we did with running, what do you think would be a more ideal approach to Keto adaptation:
- Cut yourself down to 20 grams of total carbs per day, no excuses, no exceptions?
- Try an (honest) assessment of how many carbs you eat in a typical day at baseline. Start your adaptation by eliminating all added sugars for a week, reassess, and go from there?
In this case, I hope you chose option #2…could you be successful with option number 1? Maybe…however it is more likely that you would have very intense cravings for carbs and sugar, would feel miserable, and would not stick to your plan to become Keto adapted.
As a reminder for my specific case, I had 2 months of adaptation which involved completely cutting out all added sugar, grain, and alcohol. I also spent at least a month prior to that time experimenting with cutting out grains, in preparation for the Whole 30. 20 grams of total carbs per day is very low, and I moved the target up to 30-40 grams per day, but these levels were not unrealistic for me based on my long adaptation and planning period.
Lifestyle changes to continue
I will continue to not include grain, legumes, or added sugar as frequent parts of my diet, they will all be treats. I found during the whole 30 that my digestion improved when I removed beans as a main staple, and the removal of grain and added sugar has made making good food choices and controlling appetite much easier for me. On days I am looking to keep a fast going, I will incorporate a bullet proof coffee, these have become a nice addition.
Let’s Talk about it [Video]
What is Next?
The holidays are coming, so my next posts are going to be related to making and sustaining healthy lifestyle changes, and not allowing life circumstances (like the holidays) to disturb your progress. Thanks for checking out my post, like if you like, comment with any questions!