By: Ben Sweeney
The Ketogenic Diet, commonly shortened to Keto, has gotten widely mixed reviews from people who have tried it. Many have met their weight loss goals on it, yet others have found that it’s had a negative effect on their overall health. Keto is currently the new “it” diet, but it’s actually been around since as far back as the 1920’s when it was being used to help treat epilepsy. Recently, research has shown that there are other health benefits to being on the diet. Having heard all of this, I decided to give it a try, mostly for two specific reasons. I love both sweet and savory foods, and Keto gave me the opportunity to completely detox off sugar and onto a very clean diet, as you have to consume almost no fruit and carbs on Keto. The other reason was to see how it would affect my body. I truly didn’t know what to expect both physically and in my fitness performance.
The purpose of Keto is to shift your body’s primary fuel source from carbohydrates to fat. In order to do so, you drastically restrict your daily carb intake and greatly increase the amount of fats you’re consuming. This changes your body’s metabolism to now burn fat as your fuel source versus glucose from carbs, which, ultimately, helps you shed any stubborn, excess body fat. This change in your body’s metabolism is called Ketosis, and takes some time to achieve. How long it takes varies from person to person.
I found that I was able to achieve Ketosis relatively quickly. I did Keto for a total of five weeks and it took me about two weeks to reach Ketosis. This was primarily because my current diet is naturally a little higher in fat and I’ve been on a paleo diet for a few years, so the shift to full Keto was a relatively natural one once I eliminated the majority of my carbs. Every day, I took in a total of only 20 grams of carbohydrate (normally, an average training day requires 400 grams for me) and monitored my ketone levels to make sure I was burning fat for fuel (you can buy special Keto test strips for this).Though reportedly common in most people who start the diet, I never got “Keto flu”, where your body experiences flu-like symptoms as your metabolism changes over. Throughout the five weeks, I found I was able to maintain weight while significantly leaning out and completely detoxing from sugar. Most importantly, all of my health markers–HDL, LDL, blood triglycerides, etc.–all came back healthy.
Where I had a little trouble with the diet was in maintaining my energy levels during my training sessions. I kept with the diet over the entire course of the Open and was able to perform each Open workout at the start of my training hours without a problem. For these shorter, high-intensity workouts, I never felt like I couldn’t push through due to a lack of energy (as long as other external factors such as sleep and stress weren’t affecting me). Where I did notice a difference was during the second hour of my two hour-long workouts. At that point, I started to feel my energy levels drop, it became hard to push during strength/metcons, and my training suffered. I didn’t lose any strength, though, and none of my numbers dropped because of the diet, but in order to put on mass and increase strength as I’m trying to do, it would be extremely difficult to take in the amount of calories I need on Keto. While possible, that level of food required for increasing lean mass would add up quickly on this diet. So, if you’re looking to be competitive in sports/fitness, trying to gain weight, or trying to increase overall strength, it’s not a diet I would recommend.
Overall, I had a very positive experience with Keto and would recommend it for anyone who’s taking group fitness classes. Your energy levels for an hour-long class would be fine. You won’t have a crash and you’ll be able to work hard continuously throughout the hour. I found it to be incredibly effective in helping to eat clean and burn fat in order to lean out/lose weight. However, it is something you need to be RELIGIOUS about. You can’t “kind of” be keto, otherwise you won’t get that critical shift in your metabolism from carb-based to fat-based fuel burning. In order to reach Ketosis, you need to make sure that your carbohydrates drop from about 50% of your diet down (normal) to around 5%, weigh and measure your foods, increase your sleep, and up your water consumption. By doing this, you willl reach Ketosis quickly. But doing the diet halfway – like only doing it on weekdays, or being “90% Keto” – will never allow you to hit that critical point, and might even potentially do damage to your body. There is a lot of math, meal prep, and testing to be done, but if you are willing to commit to doing Keto, and your goal is a healthier lifestyle, you will find success.
If you have any questions about Keto, my experience with it, and potentially giving it a try, feel free to reach out to me [firstname.lastname@example.org ]
By: Ben Sweeney