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Now that I have been following a Ketogenic diet for a little over two years, I thought it would be a good time to do an update on what I've learned, where I'm at and what I have found to work and not work for me. (Read This To See How I Got Started With Ketogenic Diet.)
What is The Ketogenic Diet?
"The ketogenic diet was designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. Despite being highly effective in treating epilepsy, it fell out of fashion due to the surge in new anti-seizure medications in the 1940s.” www.CharlieFoundation.org
Through research, it was found that when kids with drug resistant epilepsy fasted, they no longer had seizures. Since they could't fast these kids or any human for that matter indefinitely, they began to develop a diet that mimics fasting physiologically, in order to provide the kids a way to avoid seizures, but still give their bodies the nutrients they need to survive. This was the ketogenic diet which is defined as a diet with the macronutrient ratio of 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein, 5-10% carbohydrates. -ketogenic-diet-resource.com (These ratios can shift slightly depending on your particular body type, activity level and history.) The diet gets its name from the fact that when you switch to a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet, your body begins to shift its main energy source away from glucose to ketone bodies, which come from fat and fat metabolism. When you are using these ketone bodies as your primary fuel source, you are said to be in ketosis, which can be tested a few different ways.
What I’ve Learned
As with any diet there is no one size fits all protocol. For some people, eating Paleo is the perfect way to eat and for others, eating a vegetarian diet can be best for them. Even with the Ketogenic diet, it takes trial and error to figure out what your specific carbohydrate and protein intake levels should be. This varies person to person.
The timing in when you choose to eat your meals didn’t seem like it would be that significant of an issue but after some experimentation I stand corrected. I have found over this past year that timing of your meals is very important, if not just as important as what you are eating. I came across some interesting approaches to eating that are more focused on the timing of your nutrition rather than simply what you are eating. Eating on a schedule that’s consistent with your sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm rather than just eating whenever you feel like it was a main focus. This does seem to have a lot of logic as well as some interesting scientific theory to support this. According to this approach, for me the ideal time to eat would be in the mornings shortly after waking up and during the daytime, and avoiding food in the evening and through the night. My current eating schedule is almost the mirror image of this, having all of my food consumption in the daytime and evening and avoiding food in mornings. I tried to make the switch and failed miserably. After only a few weeks, I finally threw in the towel and decided that for me, the routine of eating in the evening was more important than trying to optimize my “eating time schedule”.
Not All Fats Are Created Equal
For many of you, this is nothing new and can even make some intuitive sense. The fat you consume from french fries for example, which has been cooked at a really high heat, then reheated many times and is often cooked in poor quality (pro-inflammatory) cooking oil will not provide the same nutrient benefits as the fat from an avocado would. This is actually more important than I ever would’ve thought. The importance of not only getting enough fat but also getting good quality fat and avoiding too much poor quality and damage fats and worst of all, poor fats that are than damaged.
Fiber Fiber Fiber
One of the biggest mistakes I have found with my own implementation of this ketogenic diet is not getting enough fiber. Now that I have learned different tools and foods to utilize this is no longer an issue for me. I do think this is unfortunately under emphasized when the ketogenic diet as discussed when in fact it is very important to include high fiber foods into this diet. This fiber is also going to help your gut microbiome which is the ultimate driver of how your body utilizes nutrition.
For myself, I have to be cautious and sparing when using dairy. I don’t tend to tolerate milk but seem to do ok with homemade yogurt, small amounts of whipped cream as well as butter and ghee. Other sources of fat that I do well with include; avocados, macadamia nuts, coconut oil, avocado oil, green olives, some cheese, cocoa butter and butter as previously mentioned as well as eggs and other animal fats.
This way of eating and focusing my nutrition continues to be beneficial. I have seen this in many respects in my own life as well as with my fiancé and others that I’ve seen undertake this way of eating.
Reduced Number Of Meals Needed
Eating nutrient dense food as well as adapting to using fat for fuel allows me to eat less meals, usually 2 per day, which makes life easier.
Reduced time spent dealing with food and or cooking is a huge bonus that I really enjoy, especially on those really busy days when I can choose to skip a meal without problems like loss of energy or focus.
Reduced Body Fat
I am able to maintain low body fat while keeping high energy and not having to worry about fat gain. My body fat percentage continues to remain low at 7.7% keeping me in the healthy range for this measure.
Continued Muscle Gain
I am able to make continued progress with conditioning as well as strength and muscle gain. My energy stays up for intense weightlifting and High Intensity Interval Training. Also, I gained 5.4 lbs of lean muscle over this past year.
Improved Stomach and Digestive System
This has been one of my biggest challenges throughout my life of always dealing with indigestion and a overall sensitive digestive system. I have much more control and consistency with my digestion especially after increasing my fiber intake and fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
A few things I should mention as the way that I approach my nutrition could very well be different than many others. Based on my current lifestyle, schedule and daily obligations, I rarely ever eat out at restaurants and therefore have almost 100% control of the food that I eat. This is mostly because of the quality of food is better and I get to choose all the ingredients that I have in my meals including the cooking oils and temperatures my food is being heated to. Many substitutions could be made at restaurants, though this is not something that I do myself often.
This is been one of the key components for me as part of this way of eating and nutrition. Having the ability to not eat breakfast most days as well as sometimes skip lunch on days that I need to for scheduling reasons or simply to give my digestive system more of a break. This has added significant value to this way of eating for me.
My Current Status/Perspective
Starting 2 years ago, I have continued to eat this high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet and in the past year I have gained 6 pounds, 5 of which are lean muscle and 1 pound of body fat according to hydrostatic body weight measurement. I also experienced 2 unfortunate injuries over this past year which did complicate and cause me to miss strength training and conditioning for a few months. But despite this, I have continued to make progress with my overall strength and conditioning and believe that’s because of my diet and nutrition. I continue to see value in this way of eating and encourage anyone with an interest in improving their health to, at minimum, educate themselves to the different ways of getting your nutrition. Then to try and do research to figure out which may be the best for you. Again, this diet is in no way shape or form the best or only diet for everybody. In fact, it is worth repeating that I don’t believe there is one diet for everybody. Instead, there are principles and insights that we can understand and learn and try to implement in our own approach to eating. Follow this up with self experimentation and trial and error. If something is not working for you, then look further for other options or ways to approach this issue. Whether you’re trying to gain muscle, lose fat, reduce inflammation, or whatever your goal is, there are different ways of eating that can help support you and finding which one fits you best is key.
Author : Jordan Proudfoot
Here are my thoughts and insights into fitness and wellness to be the best you possible.