What is Keto?
I found myself sort of thinking to myself last night that I can’t really explain what I’m doing now to others, so I wanted to collect my thoughts here for anyone that cares. Last night, I was at my little brother’s 40th birthday party – and it was so nice to see a lot of faces I haven’t seen in awhile. There were some temptations there, but I’m pretty disciplined about my eating these days, so I was good.
But what is keto?
Long story short, it’s a new….old….version of atkins. You know, low carb stuff?
But WHY keto?
This is a long story you can’t really make short. I’m going to break this down into why people do this, and then why I’m doing it.
Why do people do keto?
- Sugar is the devil. In the 1960s, research was being done linking sugar to cancer and heart disease and the like. The sugar industry paid these Harvard scientists the equivalent of $50,000 to point this research towards saturated fats and cholesterol. So – if you want to know where the food pyramid, childhood obesity, and high rates of heart disease/cancer/diabetes came from, here you go folks.
- By doing a keto diet, you do not burn dietary glucose (carbohydrates) as your primary fuel source, you burn ketones. This apparently is a “cleaner” way to live. Less brain fog.
- Sugars can also be related towards mood disorders as well, as it affects the gut flora.
- With keto, you are more or less guaranteed to burn a lot of fat off.
- Calories in, calories out don’t matter nearly as much with a “standard” diet. More on that below.
- With keto, there is a requirement for “high fats” and “moderate protein”. Atkins does not regulate fats/proteins, only low carb intake. People like the idea of eating fats because the are yummy and increase satiety to not make you hungry.
Why am I doing keto?
- Twice I was able to do Atkins successfully. Once about 20 years ago, I lost 60 pounds on it over nearly a year. Another time I lost 40 pounds in just over 5-6 weeks. Both times I did put the weight back on, but it was over many years and the weight was put back on primarily because I overate carbohydrate-rich foods and did not regularly exercise like I have for the last 18 months. So, my body reacts well to low-carb diets.
- I hit a plateau of 294 for roughly 3 months. At the early part of this, I went binge drinking with my friends for 4 days and put on about 19 pounds, then took it off over a month. I then spent the next 2 months staring at the same weight on the scale, every day, no matter what my exercise level was, my macros, my calories. Then, holiday weight/excuses/treats hit me and the day after Xmas dinner I was 301. Nope. Needed a rapid change.
- I told myself I am doing this as a 3 month challenge. I think any of us can do this for 3 months. The one time I did atkins was nearly a year, so I can do 3 months. I’d like to have a rapid drop of 20-30 pounds during this time – I know I can lose it, I just had fears of it coming back on. I feel I can mitigate these concerns by adding carbs back slowly and increasing my physical activity outdoors when it gets nicer out.
- My Atkins weight losses before were primarily to adjust to winter lack of exercise and a response to all of the sugar treats available during the cold months. As a child, I’d put 20-30 pounds on during the winter and be outdoors all day, every day in summer and take it back off. As an adult, in college, I put on the 20-30 pounds every winter, but did not have summer exercise to take it back off. That is primarily how I gained 113 pounds in college. The boozing helped, yes, but I didn’t have the exercise anymore during the warmer months to take it back off.
So what are the principles of the keto diet?
- The strict rules are you need 75% of your calories from fats, 20% from proteins, and 5% from carbohydrates. This is the “golden ratio” of keto.
- You need to keep your carbs at 20-30 grams or less per day. This is factored by taking total carbohydrates and subtracting fiber. Sorry, people are starting to think the sugar alcohols you see listed COUNT. This puts your body into ketosis, which means your body then burns fat as the primary fuel source. Over the course of many weeks (or as low as 2), your body becomes “fat adapted” – which ultimately is the goal here…for your body to “switch” to fats for fuel. During those few weeks of adaptation, you can experience the “keto flu” which is because your body no longer has carbs and flushes water out of your body – energy pulled from glycogen stores – and all of this water out is taking with it electrolytes. You need to supplement with potassium (or have avocado), sodium (or have chicken broths), and magnesium (or eat a lot of leafy greens) in order to avoid this, as I have.
- The strict rules you see above was because this diet was actually created to treat seizures in children — and this was successful.
Why am I doing a slightly different version of keto?
- It is controversial with the “calories in/calories out”. Some people like to claim “it’s thermodynamics, stupid” without a better understanding of what’s going on in your body. In short, if you add energy to a system that can’t process it, yes, the body gains weight. If you burn a lot of calories, the body will lose weight. We all get that part. But you need to dig a level deeper.
- Blood sugar – high. When you eat carbohydrates (and proteins, to an extent), your blood sugar rises. If this rises too high, it will kill you. So, your pancreas releases insulin to reduce your blood sugar by transporting this glucose to adipose tissue (fat cells). Over the next few hours, insulin is taking this to cells. Then, insulin drops – and this often is when you start to feel a little hungry.
- Blood sugar – low. When your blood sugar dips a little, a hormone called glucagon goes to your fat cells and wants to borrow back some of that good glucose to fuel the body. Explosive movements like weight lifting will take the energy from the localize muscle area where glucose is stored in the muscle called glycogen. So – when you walk the dog for an hour on an empty stomach, you are burning fat. When you hit the gym, you are taking from your glycogen stores in your muscles. Interestingly enough, fat cannot be converted into glycogen stores. So, the 20-30 grams of carbs I’m having every day do go into those glycogen stores.
- You are EITHER storing energy using insulin OR burning energy using glucagon. There’s no middle ground here folks. So, how about the 20 years of science telling us to eat low fat diets and eat every 2-3 hours in small meals with the food pyramid pointing to grains/breads as the most important? The “low fat” foods simply reduced fats and added sugars and high fructose corn syrup to increase flavor. Breakfast cereals? We are constantly running on insulin and storing energy. Our dietary intake is fueling our bodies, and we can rarely crack into our fat reserves with glucagon to get rid of belly fats.
- With keto – the concept here is this. With no insulin being pumped through your system, dietary fats fuel your body but cannot get stored as fats. Excess calories in fat intake do not get stored on your body. I am watching a lot of Jason Wittrock on YouTube. That guy is a spokesman for bodybuilding.com and eats 4,000 calories per day. Constantly at 10% or so body fats. Now, here’s the issue I have with this. So if you eat 10,000 calories a day of fats, you won’t gain weight? You will. So, where is the sweet spot?
- With keto – like atkins, when you don’t have insulin spikes/crashes, and you eat proteins/fats, you have a high level of satiety. So, you don’t get as hungry as much. This allows you, ultimately, to eat a low number of calories. The first 2 weeks, you’re like “chicken wings and drumsticks all day!!” and you see the scale go down 10 pounds. You’re like, “this is the greatest diet ever”. Then you’re like “do I HAVE to eat?”. You find that eating isn’t something you revolve your life around anymore.
- Proteins – while people say “20% or less of proteins”! They are speaking on two fronts. First, the original diet which was treating kids with seizures had this number. Two, they fear that too much protein will then convert to fats with gluconeogenesis. Yes, proteins do have an effect on your insulin. My whey isolate protein powder might be the worst offender, so I’ve had to temporarily discontinue using it. However, what you find a lot is “moderate protein usage”. A lot of bodybuilders may be eating 300-400 grams of protein a day. This is excessive. A number I’m happy with is between .8 g and 1.0 g of protein per pound of LEAN BODY MASS. Luckily, I’ve had some fancy scales to tell me that my fat free mass is around 170 pounds. So this tells me that I want to have 136-170 grams of protein per day. This is to preserve my muscles and help build new ones. More on that below.
So, for now, I’ve adopted a 2240 calorie diet with the following:
30g carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram = 120 calories in carbs, or 5.4% carbs. This is one I want to hit or go UNDER every day.
170g protein = 4 calories per gram = 680 calories in proteins, or 30.4%. This is a number I’m also ok with not quite hitting. This can dip to about 24% at my lowest. So I’m shooting for 24-30% protein.
Rest = fat. This comes out to be about 65-70% fats. At 9 calories per gram, this comes out to be about 160g of fats per day.
Given when I mentioned above, I’m not terribly concerned if my calories are over by a few hundred if it’s in fats.
In 12 days on the diet so far, I’m down to 292. Or, about a 10 pound loss. I’m 2 pounds below my “plateau weight”, and mentally, it feels good to break through the barrier. Most of this is water weight, I know this. But I am also feeling less bloated. I am feeling “smaller” which is what I’m going for. I feel over the next 10 weeks, I can take another 20 pounds off, if not more with moderate strength training.
Twist – intermittent fasting
I’m also compounding my results with something called “intermittent fasting”. So essentially this means I am eating during an 8 hour window, and NOT eating during a 16 hour window. For example, my window of eating is 11AM to 7PM every day. My coffee in the morning doesn’t spike the insulin, so I’m still in a “fasted state”. This means I have about 16 hours straight of glucagon going into my fat stores to burn energy. I will have small insulin spikes during the eating window with my 20-30 carbs, but these are minimal and should not last very long. Some of the fats I eat then will go into stores, but the lack of a lot of insulin needed will minimize this. Also, apparently intermittent fasting is good for HGH and testosterone production, which also helps the body take a much better shape and helps with the working out. During this time, you also want to eat cruciferous veggies to carry away any form of estrogen.
So – there you have it. That is the root structure of what I do. So what do I eat on this? Here’s a few examples.
- Coffee – every day I have my morning coffee, which is coffee, 2 TBSP stevia, 1 TBSP coconut oil, 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 TBSP heavy cream, a couple of dashes of cinnamon. Good times. 250 calories and super low carb.
- Avocado pudding/mousse – so if you need chocolate, you can have a little, sort of. I make up a mousse with avocado and cocoa powder, yogurt, and heavy whipping cream with some liquid stevia. The concept is to get the good fats and potassium of avocado in the diet. I can’t eat avocado straight, so this is a good delivery mechanism. Eat smaller portions, as the calories skyrocket and could be a small meal replacement.
- Eggs/bacon/sausage. I love eggs and bacon, so this is a no brainer. Eggs have some good fats, and the free range eggs have good omega 3s.
- Chicken – The first week, I had a lot of wings/drumsticks. These are HIGH in calories, but helped me during the first week with satiety. I used frank’s red hot with them and butter, which has no carbs. Also, I ate ranch for the first time, which is very low in carbs. This week, I’m bringing chicken breasts back, but in moderation and use ranch to increase the fats.
- Salads – I eat a just insane amount of spinach and romaine. You can use long romaine leaves for sandwiches. For example, ground beef mixed with bacon and fried onions/cheese. Spoon some of this on a romaine leaf. Dump some on a giant romaine salad at work.
- Cheese – you can have a decent amount of this. String cheese makes a good snack.
- Nuts – be careful with these, as cashews are really high in carbs. These might be better for a small snack at times.
- Pot roast! I got an instant pot and made up a lot of pot roast with cabbage. Great meal to eat! I never really ate much cabbage before, but you can make it with the instant pot in 10 mins or so on pressure cooking and it turns out amazing with chicken broth.
- Pizza! Well…not really. I tried both the fat head (dough made of…cheese) and the cauliflower dough. I actually liked the cauliflower one better, as the cheese one was…just too cheesy and the calories got insane. I mean ludicrous speed. However, it did the job.
- Chicken parm. Using Rao’s home made sauce (2g of carbs for a quarter cup) and whole milk mozzarella, you can really make up a good chicken parm. On that today.
- Veggies – you can see a lot of low carb veggies online. This means, unfortunately, a goodbye to potatoes, carrots, and many other staples I normally ate. However, this opened up bok choi, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and romaine to me to supplement my micronutrients.
Here’s a few pics I took over the last 2 weeks…