I started this year off with a bang by diving head first into a new diet. I need to get my weight under control, feel more energetic, and feel better in general. It’s the Keto Diet. Some of you may have heard of the Keto Diet. It seems, sometimes, like it is one of those fad diets that may not last long. However, the premise has actually been around for a very long time.
I have now been on the diet for 6 days and I have lost 6lbs. Once I got past the dreaded “carb flu”, which I will speak more about further down, my energy and mental clarity skyrocketed. And, believe me, it was awful before. The weight loss will eventually settle into a moderate pace, but the other effects should be around for the duration and beyond if I stick to it.
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, extremely low carb diet. When starting out, it was hard to reconcile the fact that I had to eat more fat than anything else. It ran counterintuitive to everything I have been taught about nutrition and health.
What this diet essentially does is train your body, which normally runs on glucose, to run on fat. We get our glucose stores from carbohydrates. Therefore, if we greatly reduce our carb intake and there is no glucose to use, our body must choose something else from which to get its energy. In this case, the body’s second choice is fat. This type of diet starts a process in your body known as ketosis.
However, you must be careful to keep an eye on your carb intake. If you eat too many carbs and there is enough glucose for your body to run on, then you will be kicked out of ketosis and all the fat you just consumed will be stored, instead of used, leading weight gain.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is the process by which your body runs on fat and produces ketones, a type of acid. These show up in your blood and can be used by your muscles and other tissues. This process is usually started by low carb diets like Keto, Atkins, and Paleo or by fasting.
Knowing when you are in ketosis can help you know if your macronutrient (fat, protein, carbs) ratio is working or if you need to adjust. One of the cheapest ways to test yourself is through the use of ketone test strips. They work by testing your urine for the presence of ketones and change from a light color (indicating a low number of ketones) to a dark color (indicating a high number of ketones).
I have enjoyed using the Perfect Keto brand as seen below. As of writing this, some of the bottles came with a link to get another free bottle after it arrived. It was truly free. I wasn’t even charged shipping so I basically got two for the price of one. I am not sure if that comes on every bottle but it does say it is only for Amazon customers.
This method of testing seems to be most reliable in the first few weeks of being on the diet. There are a few other ways to test including a blood meter or breathalyzer. These can be considerably more expensive and may not be worth the cost.
What is the proper ratio for fat, protein, and carbs?
There are some varying ideas out there of what the best ratio is. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. However, they all tend to agree on a few key points.
First, your fat intake should consume the majority of your calories preferably between 75% and 80%. Your body will be using fat as its primary fuel source. Therefore, you need to make sure you have plenty for your body to function. Further, a high fat, low carb diet has been proven to show great satiety leading to lower consumption of food which furthers weight loss efforts.
Secondly, protein is also important but should still be consumed in a much lower quantity than fat. Protein should take up about 15% to 25% of your daily caloric goal. However, the best way to find out how much protein you need is to use a keto calculator.
There are people out there that believe that eating too much protein can kick you out of ketosis. The theory is that the excess protein turns to sugar in your blood. However, there are a few sites out there that debunk this line of thought as your body already handles this process naturally.
Lastly, they all agree that counting your carbs is the most important step when on the Keto Diet. While the amount of carbs that works the best for each person varies, it is mostly agreed upon that you must stay under 50 total carbs a day to reach ketosis. Further, it is mostly agreed upon that you need to stay under 20 net carbs a day to reach ketosis faster and, for some, this is the ideal amount and going higher could throw them out of ketosis. Depending on your needs, activity levels, etc., you may need to adjust your intake to somewhere in between. I refer you back to the keto calculator to determine where you should start.
Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs
I mentioned above that you must stay under 50 total carbs or 20 net carbs a day, but I am sure you are wondering what the difference between total and net is. If you look at a nutritional label in the United States, you will notice that fiber is included in the carbohydrate section. Fiber, for the most part, is not absorbed by the body and, therefore, has no impact on our actual carbohydrate levels.
Using the carb total on the nutritional label would be part of counting your total carbs. However, if you want to count your net carbs, then you would deduct fiber. For example, broccoli has about 6 carbs per cup but has about 4 grams of fiber. Therefore, broccoli has a net carb total of 2. A lot of people don’t feel like counting that strictly which is why they will start with 50 total carbs a day because, most likely, they will automatically be consuming about 20 grams of fiber making their net carbs for the day around 30.
Those who want to be stricter and get into ketosis faster will count their net carbs and follow the rule of staying under 20 net carbs a day.
Just remember: Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber
The “Carb Flu”
The “carb flu” is one of the side affects of starting a Keto Diet. As you come down off of carbs and your body start transitioning to running on flat, a few things can happen. You may experience headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability. Some even experience some nausea. This typically lasts for a few days, although, some have reported it as having lasted a few weeks. For me, personally, it lasted about 3 days. I was amazed when I woke up one morning and felt fantastic.
There are some great resources out there for how to battle and lessen some of the symptoms of the “carb flu”. You can read one I found particularly useful here ( https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/side-effects).
Somewhat Hard but Worth It
This diet can be hard for some people. For me, I think the hardest part has been not adding sugar to my coffee and tea. 1 tsp of sugar has 5 carbs. If I only get 20 net carbs a day, I can’t afford to waste them on sugar. The great thing about the Keto Diet, though, is that eventually these cravings disappear. I’m looking forward to that day.
Also, those first few days when the “carb flu” hit, I was questioning whether I could do it. I was felt so tired, like walking through quicksand, I couldn’t think straight, and I was quite irritable. I warned my husband it could happen beforehand so, fortunately, he was prepared and dealt with it admirably.
However, so far, I’m not missing that much carb-wise and I have actually had more energy in the last few days than I have had in the last 15 years. I think that, coupled with the few pounds lost already, has given me the ability to stick with it so far.
In the future, it may be harder to stick with at times but another good thing about this diet is that once your body learns to run on fat, you can become fat-adapted. I have been told that once this happens, you can easily jump in and out of ketosis which means allowing yourself to take a break once and a while and, perhaps, eat more carbs than you would otherwise. However, I’m about 6 weeks or so from looking at that possibility so I will keep you updated.
If you want to follow my journey on this diet, and my weight loss journey in general, feel free to check out my Countdown to Cruise series. I will be posting a video on Monday of each week updating the progress I’ve made and the tips and tricks I’ve learned and, hopefully, providing a little motivation for others.