We Did It For You – The Keto Diet | Part 1
Everyone seems to be raving about the Keto Diet at the moment. It’s being labelled as a “revolutionary cure” to some unfortunately common lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity. It’s pretty similar to the way people raved about the Atkins Diet back in the 90’s and it works kind of the same way where you restrict and regulate carbohydrate intake in favour of proteins and fats. The keto diet has you going a step further though an aiming for a state of “ketosis” in which your energy source is effectively switched over from carbohydrates to fats and maintaining that state for indefinite periods of time.
Keto Diet Advocates have also been known to say that it’s the silver bullet the world has been searching for, having a profound effect on children with ADHD and Autism, fixing poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, curing inflammatory and autoimmune diseases like Crohns (which I have), “starving out” cancer and ultimately curing it, curing arthritis and enhancing all round sports performance.
With this many alleged possible benefits from doing something as seemingly simple as just not eating carbs it seems too good to be true. Well these things may very well be true in some cases, but if that’s what you were looking for then I apologise, this isn’t a post about that. I’m not a doctor or scientist, nor am I a woo-peddling alternative medicine crackpot. This is a post about what it’s like to venture out to the internet, do some research and give it a go yourself.
This is a post about what you can expect in terms of results in a very basic sense and why certain things happen when you do the Keto diet. There was so much to write about I have had to split it up in to two parts.
So first, why test it on ourselves?
The “We Did It For You” series of posts are a bunch of things we’ve heard about and decided to give a go. Mainly, because we’re trainers and people ask us what we think about certain things so having some kind of informed response would be nice. However, there’s a bunch of you out there who also don’t have the ability to try things out for yourselves or want to know what’s happened when someone else has tried it. These posts are for you guys.
In December last year my partner and I decided to give this Keto thing a go for January (ultimately ended up being 5 weeks for me) and see what happened. We had both read and heard about the Keto diet from friends, podcasts and others we follow on Facebook and Instagram. We had debated about whether or not it would actually be worthwhile for us and whether it would even do anything because at the end of the day if you were just lowering or increasing calories it should theoretically do the same things in terms of muscle gain and fat loss. But with so many people out there reporting it did everything from regulate their hormones better to lose a tonne of stubborn fat we eventually decided to just give it a go. What did we have to lose?
Preparing for Keto
There was a little more involved in getting ready to do Keto than we had anticipated. We had 3 major sticking points that we found made it more difficult than we expected.
Keto Hurdle 1: Picking a Style
It turns out there are a couple of different types of Keto diet. We decided to do the Cyclic Keto Diet as it seemed to fit with our athletic goals and busy lives. It’s the same as the Traditional Keto Diet, but you eat a moderate amount of carbs on the weekend. So basically you eat Keto 5-6 days per week and normal eating for 1 day instead of cutting them completely for the month.
Doing this style of Keto meant we could have our bigger lifting sessions on the weekend and still do social things like birthdays we had coming up with family and friends. We thought it would probably be good for our sanity as well.
The problem with figuring out which style of Keto to do means you have to sit there and think about what you have happening for the period of time and whether you want to put up with the social strain that it’s going to place on you, whether it’s going to affect your ability to take food to work and even whether it’s going to affect your training. All of this for the is a bit too much to have to take in to account in my opinion, especially when you add to it the meal planning you need to do.
Keto Hurdle 2: The Meal Planning Process
Not a task for the faint of heart.
I’ve been an avid listener of The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast now for about 5 years. Listening to the podcast was when I first heard about the Ketogenic diet and Joe regularly has guests on (and raves about it himself) who have a tonne of experience and information on Keto. One in particular is top of the food chain when it comes to Keto – Dominic D’Agustino, PhD.
Using him as the starting point for information gathering we found this Keto Calculator which we used to calculate our Keto macros. We then updated our calorie and macro goals in My Fitness Pal and started trying to figure out how our meals would look. I have NEVER been more frustrated trying to apply macros to plan meals for the coming week. The whole process almost had me quit before starting because it was just so difficult to work your meals out in a way you can take them to work and still hit the required calories for the day in the ratio’s given for Keto. Sounds complicated right?
Let me explain a little more…
Keto has you aiming for under 30g of net carbs per day when starting out. Net carbs means carbs excluding fibre, which you need in your diet for regularity. Fibre predominantly comes from foods with complex carbs in them. So in order to get the right amount of fibre you need to find sources of fibre that aren’t grains or cereals, beans or lentils. You need to eat other stuff like nuts, but not all nuts are equal on Keto so you’ll need to pick from a specific few and then you’ve got green vegetables you can choose from as well. But no, you can’t choose just any green vegetables because some have too many carbs so you find yourself left with stuff like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower (not even green and not even filling).
Wow. What a spread to choose from…
All of this made the meal planning quite hard and I often found I would over eat on protein just to hit the amount of fats I needed. Probably explains why most people doing Keto have ketone supplements and do things like add MCT Oil or butter to their coffee – you need to do it just to hit the calories more than anything else or you end up under eating.
Keto Hurdle 3: The Avocado Drought & Frequent Shopping
Prepare for your life to be taken over by a constant quest of fresh avocados and trips back to the shops for fresh food.
Don’t get me wrong, avocados are awesome. High fat, healthy, a decent amount of fibre and they go well with almost everything. It’s like they were made for Keto. The problem we had is that Australia is going through an avocado drought at the moment so prices were about $3.50 per avocado during January. When you’re eating 1 per day, per person that adds up.
On your average shop when not doing Keto you might expect to buy one or two, maybe even 3 for the week. On Keto this can be more like 10. No way we’re spending $35 on Avocados per week. That’s about 3 times what we’d spend on the rest of the veges we included as part of our meals. Even then, you try getting near ripe Avocado’s when they’re scarce. You can buy 5 when you do the shopping on the weekend and they’re only starting to ripen on Thursday. You could buy the dip instead but that quote often works out to be even more expensive per serve when you need half the tub to get the same amount of fats.
Most of the Instagrammers you see with Keto plates on display will have a tonne of avocado on there. It’s probably likely they’re from the US where in most areas Avocados are plentiful and a fair bit cheaper than in Australia at the moment.
Oh and for my comment about trips back to the shops for fresh food – You know most fresh food spoils in a few days so you can’t expect a bag of baby spinach to last for 7 days before you open it. So you’ll find there are particular things you eat as part of your daily fibre intake that you need to buy fresh at least 1 extra time per week. You’ll inevitably find yourself running back to the shops through the week for other stuff and then probably end up getting more dressings while you’re there because you’re smashing the salad dressing as well. It honestly starts to become a burden after 2 weeks.
So… What Happened ?
Whenever you make a change to diet or lifestyle there are other things that inevitably change with that. These are some of the things you might find happen if you were to try Keto.
We go over some of the reasons why in Part 2 – The Results.
Edit: A while after this experiment we actually found this pretty handy calculator so we have included it for you below.