Ketogenic (LCHF) Diet – Random Thoughts

Low Carb, High Fat…I’ve been mostly on this diet save a few cheats since early November. I very nearly quit early on but read a few books on the subject and decided to stick with it. Here are just some random thoughts and observations I’ve made…

1. Induction – with any diet you have to decide if you are gonna hit it cold turkey or ease into it. I chose the former and it most definitely sucked. In the community they call it Keto Flu. This is where your body is using up the last of your circulating carbs and glycogen to supply energy to the brain and body. Ideally you should be limiting your exercise during this phase since your body is slowly adapting to relying on fat as an energy source. During this phase I was still trying to run 6-8 miles 3-4 times per week and I really felt like I was dying. I couldn’t breathe as I normally do on runs and felt completely zapped of energy. In addition, I had a mild headache for at least 3 days. It took a good two weeks of extremely strict dieting where I finally felt like “broke through” and running got back to normal.

2. Water -I’m drinking more water than I have in a long time. It’s pretty much essential on this diet since stored glycogen accompanies a lot of water weight and it all gets flushed out. This is honestly what kept me from straying/cheating in the early phases. In the first week I had lost about 10 pounds which was mostly stored water weight. I knew in my mind that the weight would eventually stabilize and the loss would slow but it was still quite remarkable.

3. Hunger – You don’t get hungry on this diet. Period. I’m pretty well adapted now so I only have a cup or two of bulletproof coffee for breakfast around 7:30am. This amounts to about 600 calories of all fat. Most days I will go eat lunch simply because it’s lunch time, not because I was hungry. On days when I don’t have lunch, those 600 calories of fat have carried me all the way to around 8pm at night with no mental fog or late afternoon energy crash. Roughly 12 hours between meals and not feeling hungry is pretty awesome.

4. Exercise – as a runner, this is a big component for me. As I stated earlier, trying to exercise while still adapting is next to impossible. This was one of the biggest reason that I nearly quit this diet. I just flat out couldn’t run; it was an extreme effort that left me drained. If not for the early water weight losses I would have quit but I decided that I could put running on hiatus while I tried to lose some weight. Then at the very least, I would be down a few pounds and it would definitely make it easier once I picked up running again. Anyway, long story short, I adapted to the diet and running is now easier than ever. I don’t do other sports but I’ve heard similar stories about this diet translating into performance gains in other areas of exercise and training. Most of the research I’ve read shows the most gains for endurance athletes which is a HUGE plus for a long distance runner. šŸ˜‰

5. Difficulty/PerceptionĀ – with any diet plan you should think about how you are gonna plan around it. For one major thing, if you’re out and about and didn’t pack a meal how are you gonna ensure you are hitting your calorie or macro nutrient goals? Or if you are doing the diet but your family aren’t, how can you plan family meals that work for everyone? Thankfully in the latter department my wife has been very gracious and super creative in making dinners that work for my diet. And as always, I slather the butter on everything and she doesn’t. šŸ™‚ As for the former, luckily, there are low-carb versions of most things I used to eat all the time. Fried Chicken strips with BBQ sauce gets turned into grilled strips covered in full fat ranch dressing. Cheeseburgers get changed to bunless cheeseburgers, add bacon and hold the ketchup (it has tons of Ā sugar!). Carne Asada burritos from La Villa are still there, just add tons of avocado andĀ hold the rice and beans and tortillaĀ (being Mexican that one still stings).Ā Which leads to perception…trying to explain to people that I’m eating fat in order to lose fat, ordering weird ass menu items, sticking butter in my coffee? This really flies in the face of what we’ve been told about nutrition for decades. Quite frankly, I’ve taking the “explain it simply that I’m on a lowcarb/no sugar diet but replacing those calories with fat” route, which is exactly what it is. If they don’t get it, oh well. I’ll continue eating cheese, salami, and olives as snacks and enjoy the shit out of it.

One last thing I will state on this: possessing the knowledge and dogma of nutritional advice we’ve been given for decades I can state that this diet is basically a fad diet. Personally though, I like to think of it as a bodyhack. Ketosis is a state your body will naturally turn to when you are fasting or if you are suffering from starvation. Most people are in a mild state of ketosis upon waking in the morning. This diet is designed to mimic those conditions through carb depletion which is very similar to the human diet prior to the introduction of agriculture. The more I learn about the science of metabolism through the books I’ve read the more I think of it as a body hack; just manipulate a macro nutrient (carbohydrates) to induce changes in the body and mind. The only reason I would say it’s a fad diet is because doing this has no real place with the abundance of modern agriculture. We have abundance so why should we be tricking our body into believing it’s starving? Not to mention that the nutritional advice we’ve been given for decades is eat in balance, consume mostly grains and vegetables and limit meats, dairy, and dietary fats. Of course, the more I read about it the more I believe that science will actually turn the question around on us in the next 20 years and hopefully by then we might have nutritional guidelines that make sense. I know enough to say I don’t know but…I am dropping weight, having improved endurance performance, and feeling very mentally clear and full of energy lately. That’s a good enough sign for me to continue on my fad diet for now.

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~ by gafoo on February 21, 2014.

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