We Did It For You – The Keto Diet | Part 2
In Part 1 of this little experiment where we tried the Keto diet for you we went over some of the things you should expect going in to doing Keto. Now the part everyone always wants to get to – the results. What happened, why it happened and what you can expect to happen if you were to give it a try yourself.
So What Happened & Why?
When you do the Keto diet there are quite a few processes that are triggered in the body which result in all sorts of things happening which you wouldn’t consider “normal” if you had them happen under other “normal” circumstances. I read about them elsewhere so kind of knew what to expect going in to it, but everyone is different so you never know to what magnitude it will happen to you.
As I mentioned earlier in Part 1, I’m not a doctor or scientist so I contacted someone with some significantly higher qualifications than myself to bounce the results off and confirm why certain things happened – Scott Hill, owner of Power Elite (pty ltd) Gym in Smeaton Grange, NSW.
Scott has a Bachelors in Applied Science (Physio) Hons 1 from Sydney Uni, is an Australian Representative Powerlifter in the IPF, is a multiple time Australian Champion in the IPF, National Level Natural Bodybuilder with the ANB and a Strength and Body Transformation Coach with over 20 years in the Health and Fitness industry – so you could say he knows his stuff when it comes to how the body works.
I sat down with Scott to go over it all on the first Saturday morning after finishing the experiment to have my measurements taken and see what happened to my body in general as well as bounce some of my experiences and thoughts off him.
Weight Loss, Thirst & The Runs
Let’s start with the number 1 reason people do any diet or lifestyle change – to lose weight. I have a pet hate about calling it “losing weight” because you can do that in any number of ways, which I have pointed out before. More accurately, you want to lose body fat, look better and be healthier – right?
I started at 108kg and finished up at 103.9kg. I also measured my fluctuation in weight over the weekends when I was eating carbs. Usually there would be anywhere from 1-3kg difference. I also found I was smashing water. I’m talking somewhere in the range of 6L of water per day in the first week. I’ve hardly ever been that thirsty but I just couldn’t get enough water. When you do Keto you need to be prepared to take water with you everywhere and go places where there are toilets… Depleting yourself of carbs is thirsty work and you really don’t want to get yourself dehydrated.
Scott confirmed my theory that the weight loss side of it was mostly Glycogen and water depletion. You see, your muscles store a substance which is used for energy called glycogen. This consists of a simple form of carbohydrate bound together with mostly water. The more muscle you have the more glycogen can be stored so if you’re a bigger guy with more muscle you can take longer to deplete this and just as long to replenish it.
The thirst was because I was losing a lot of water through using the glycogen.
“But what about The Runs” I head you say…. Well, when you severely restrict calories or carbohydrate like in the Keto diet (or any diet where you’re severely depleted of calories or carbs) you use that glycogen I mentioned as your main source of energy until you hit ketosis. When glycogen is used the water held with it is released as well and in Keto this means you’ll have bouts of diarrhoea lasting days at a time.
The number one thing I can guarantee you is you’ll be thirsty and visiting the toilet a lot during the first week or two.
So what about the actual figures? How much weight was actually lost and what was it made up of?
Scott has been tracking my muscle and fat loss/gain now for about 2.5 years and in that time has built up a record of how my body has responded to various training and dietary changes. In measuring my actual fat loss from doing the diet what we found was that my body composition had only slightly changed – even a month down the track and eating normally my weight is the same now at 104kg. I gained .15kg in muscle and lost .55kg fat between my pre-christmas measurement and the end of Keto in January whilst eating at a slight calorie deficit of 2600 calories per day and lifting weights 2-3 times per week.
Where did the weight loss actually come from then?
Scott explained that through the whole process its likely I shed a bunch of retained water from around my fat stores as well as some glycogen but ultimately for a significantly measurable difference I could switch the style of Keto and my training to adapt to it. The water had probably accumulated during the Christmas period, but who’s to say really, it’s gone now.
You Might Get Constipated
On the flip side (but still related) to the previous point it’s also possible you’ll end up with some moderate to severe constipation. I read about this when doing some of my initial research and thankfully it didn’t happen to me, but I asked Scott about it regardless.
Scott said everyone’s fibre requirement varies (even from the government issued guidelines) and if you mess with what your body is used to too much you can end up with a bit of a situation on your hands. This happens when you increase it too much as well as decrease it too much in too short or long a period of time. Interestingly as well it seems that with some people their body just doesn’t handle the higher fat level very well and they also get stomach pains.
As I mentioned in the preparation portion of this post you can have some trouble getting in the fibre you need so pay attention to how much you have normally and how much you’re having doing Keto or you can expect some issues in this department.
Hard to Curb Cravings & Carbs Made Me Hungry
Something which I found pretty significant in this little experiment was that when I did eat carbs on the given days over the weekend I was absolutely unable to fill myself. It didn’t matter if I ate the same amount of calories as on the Keto days or not – I was ravenous when I ate carbs. This was consistent over every weekend.
The first break we took from Keto I was craving a pizza. No sooner was it delivered I demolished it and remained hungry for the rest of the night. I managed to somehow fit it in to my calories for the day but if anything it seemed to just make me hungrier having the pizza than I had felt in a long time. Despite the hunger I slept like a baby for the first time all week (more on that in a little while).
So why through the day was I not so hungry eating Keto, then when I ate the whole pizza later I was ravenous? I ran this by Scott and what he said was pretty interesting. The insatiable hunger was due to increased insulin sensitivity from Keto. Insulin is produced when you eat and acts as a transporter for glucose to be moved to cells around the body where they are usually used for energy. He went on to explain that when your glycogen levels are low and you take in some carbs your body’s natural response can be heightened – especially in healthy individuals who don’t have diabetes or liver problems.
So because I was so depleted in carbohydrates, when I ate that first bite of pizza my body started signalling me to eat more, hence the hunger. Upon doing some more research it appears this could also be a part of human evolution whereby in times of food scarcity the body will happily switch to using ketones as energy, however when the simpler energy source is available (like carbs) it ramps up the hunger, prompting you to stuff your face with whatever is in front of you.
Sounds similar to yo-yo dieting right? The same mechanism is at play here. You’re heavily restricting something your body wants to use as part of its natural process.
As for the cravings that could be a similar part of the mechanism – your body wants a source of energy, which it has by using the ketones, however something is missing. Cravings are your body sending signals saying it needs something and your mind has associated with a particular food item. This is more common on heavily restricted diets such as Keto as well as extreme calorie deficit diets like detoxes.
Yeah this is common, but not that big of an issue if you’re not a drama queen and its not really the Flu either FYI. I’ve heard stories of people lying in bed in the fetal position shivering like they had the Flu. We both felt a bit average for the first couple of days but realistically you’re bound to feel something (I wouldn’t say sick though) if you stop eating something your body uses for fuel.
That glycogen stuff I mentioned earlier is actually pretty important for your everyday function. The Keto Flu is this and electrolytes stored with it being depleted and the time it takes is different for everyone depending on how much muscle you have and your livers ability to convert stored fats to glucose. For some people this process can take a while and it ultimately comes down to your body type and how dependent your body is on carbs as a fuel source before it effectively “switches”. Drink water, you’ll be fine. You made the choice to do Keto, at least this is over soonish.
Some people don’t have an issue, others feel like the world is ending.
Quality Sleep was Hard to Come By
I found it really difficult to get a deep, restful sleep. It didn’t matter if I worked out, took ZMA, counted sheep or had a long day at work and was tired. I found the only time I got a great sleep was on the weekend after carbs.
When I mentioned this to Scott he said this had to do with the release of serotonin. Quite often when you eat carbs at night your insulin levels spike. When this occurs there is a higher absorption of amino acids (what protein you eat is broken down in to). One of these is Tryptophan, which is left over in the blood after digestion and, to make a long story short, ultimately ends up being used to make serotonin. Serotonin calms your body, stabilises mood and helps you sleep. It could also explain why people are moody when they do Keto.
Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia amongst a host of other things.
So the restless sleep makes sense when you think about, no carbs at night means no insulin production, which means no transport for any tryptophan left over so none/less is synthesized into serotonin.
Food Prep Was Faster, Yet More Complicated
Food prep time was almost cut in half – steaming veges and cooking meat was a breeze. The hiccup was coming up with meals we could take to work every day in a container. The problem with those people on Instagram who put up plates of delicious looking keto meals every day is that they’re professional Instagrammers or work for themselves. The thing I find they all have in common is they’re usually all eating at home. They’re not taking those meals on the train or bus every day. They’re preparing them fresh at that point in time, not on Sunday and putting them in containers for the coming week.
Food prep for Keto was a lot simpler, but you need to focus on simpler meals. However the problem with Keto meals is that some can’t be prepped on a Sunday – like some parts of salads. You’ll find yourself doing those each morning before work. Maybe even steaks – everyone knows you don’t cook a steak and microwave it 3 days later. You also can’t use some of the jar sauces you might normally use as well so you spend a lot of time researching low carb sauces or googling Keto recipes for your normal food prep.
It made the prep so much more complicated.
If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t like it.
I didn’t enjoy it and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who’s not seasoned at counting macros or calories. Keto is super complicated to get right despite the amount of blogs, guides and cook books out there.
I asked Scott whether he thought Keto was better for fat loss despite my particular results on it. He said what you can expect any realistic level headed, intelligent coach, scientist, doctor or nutritionist to say:
Adherence is the key. The best diet for anyone is one they can stick with.
There are a couple of scenarios where the Keto diet or different variations of it may be recommended, but ultimately for the purposes of losing body fat it’s only as good as your ability to stick to it. It’s no better or worse than counting points (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig etc..), Calorie counting, Macro counting (IIFYM), Paleo, Clean Eating, Atkins or whatever other form of diet you choose. The efficacy of it is as good as your ability to stick to it and ultimately calories in vs calories out reigns as the rule they are all governed by. If you take in more than you expend during a day/week/month/year you’ll gain fat, muscle, or both.
I asked Scott why some people reported feeling amazing on the Keto diet and we both had the same idea on it – It probably comes down to a comparison between eating junk all the time and moving over to eating a more natural, whole food based diet. You’re taking in more nutrients, fueling your body with what it needs as opposed to what you’ve been conditioned to eat and in comparison to how you felt the week/month before you feel amazing.
If you’re already eating healthily, exercising regularly and seeing results I wouldn’t bother changing your diet and lifestyle to Keto, however if you’re considering giving the Keto diet a go, take what I’ve written here into consideration first before blindly jumping on the latest band wagon because everyone else is.