Since I've been getting so many questions about this lately, I figured I would save myself some time and write a blog about it instead of answer each person individually.
I feel like I could attack this from 2 viewpoints: the purely information-based approach, or the personal approach. I followed a non-cyclical ketogenic (low carbs, no "cheat days" or variations in carb intake) diet a few years back so I do have that personal experience to speak from. Heck, I'll just hit it from both sides (naughty).
What is it?
You can find plenty of detailed chemistry/scientific-y explanations and research papers on the subject if you feel so inclined but basically, a ketogenic diet is a way of fueling your body with fats as opposed to carbohydrates. It involves a high intake of saturated fats and proteins with little or no carbohydrate intake (depending on your program) usually not including fiber. I would NOT recommend anyone attempt this without the guidance of a professional. Just as with any shift in dietary lifestyle, it's easy to mess shit up fairly quickly. And then, you just give up or claim it wasn't right for you when you weren't doing it correctly from the get go. Be smart and ask for help if you're curious or want to try it. That's what I did.
WHo's it for?
Anyone who is interested I guess unless you have special diet needs or a condition preventing you from processing high amounts of fats. The most important thing though, is what I say about ANY dietary change you implement: your intentions should be clear and your aim should be sustainable. If you think you want to do this from now until Dec 31 to get lean before the New Year, please reconsider. I mean, you can, by all means, and it would probably work great for you. But what about after Jan 1? The body adapts to change very quickly so once you start eating your "normal" diet again...you can kiss your results good-bye.
What was your experience like?
Amazing. My diet was already naturally heading into the "low carb" direction but I just never put a name to it. I still prefer not to give my diet a name. I eat what my body asks me for now that I have embraced whole foods and can tell the difference between cravings and actual hunger. When I started my journey 7 years ago, I knew I had to get a grip on my sugar intake, for good. I was a slave to sugar. Truly and totally addicted. And for me, the concept of moderation, cheat meals, or any other kind of back-and-forth approach does not work. Your diet is a very personal thing, in case you haven't noticed. And part of having a healthy dietary lifestyle is finding what works for you and makes you feel good inside and out. If that's dairy free, more power to ya. If it's vegan, great! If you eat sea animals, but not land animals, awesome. If it means low carb, fantastic.
ASKING Specific questions
One of the biggest problems I see is that people don't know how to ask the right questions about these diets and lifestyles. They get excited because they see before and after photos or read about someone else's experience. That's all fine and dandy but you are unlike anyone else. And your experience, no doubt, will always be different than anyone else's. What I think, or someone else thinks, is relatively unimportant. The facts are most relevant followed by your own personal needs. When you approach a coach, any coach, about a subject, try to ask very specific questions. Everyone who has asked me "What do you think about the ketogenic diet?" I have asked to be more specific about what it is they wish to learn from me. Here are some of the top responses:
- Is it healthy?
- Depends on your definition of "healthy." What I see a lot of times is a huge increase in meat intake for folks transitioning to a ketogenic diet. This is problematic in my opinion. I do not think consuming a lot of meat (especially processed meats like bacon, deli meat, jerky, sausage, hot dogs, etc) is beneficial to the body. Also, it's not all about meat in the first place. It's mostly about fat. But then people worry about too many carbs so they start eating less vegetables too. Again, problematic in my opinion. You can avoid both scenarios by asking a professional for help. (P.S. My email is EatSuite@gmail.com)
- Is it effective for weightloss?
- Usually when I ask for clarification about this question, the person reveals that the number on the scale is not as important as the fit of their pants. Ok, now we're talking. If you're looking to DROP POUNDS, as in, decrease your body weight, this might not be the best way to do it. Depends on how much weight you want to lose and whether or not your body agrees with you. If your body thinks it's at a healthy weight, you'll find it harder to lose weight. If your body feels like it's in your best interest to shed some pounds, you'll likely find it easier to do so. This is one reason people hit plateaus and find it so difficult to lose those "last 10 pounds." If you want to BURN FAT, as in, achieve a leaner physique, you've come to the right place. Initially, most people "lose" weight when they first make the switch. Some of it will be water weight, no doubt. But yay! That's a sign of decreased inflammation so that's awesome. Normally, this tapers off and you either find that your weight will stabilize or gradually decrease. It may even increase. It depends on your body, your training routine, and your genetics of course.
- Is it like Paleo?
- Similar yes, but not the same. The Paleo lifestyle is not really about ketosis as much as it's about reducing B.S. food products like refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, etc. There's soooo many different "levels" of Paleo now...it's hard to keep up. But generally, with a Paleo diet you are not as restrictive of your carbohydrates.
- What are some of the noted benefits or what draws people to it?
- It's a long list! Improved performance, increased endurance, mood stabilization, balanced energy throughout the day, reduced LDL cholesterol (the kind you want to keep lower), weight loss, building lean muscle mass, increased HDL cholesterol levels (the kind you want to keep higher), mental clarify, shaper focus, better sleep, reduced inflammation, reduced blood glucose, and slow/gentler aging of the body inside and out.
- I'm an endurance athlete, will it work for me?
- You won't know until you try. The first time I did it, I was doing a lot of HIIT and running. I was eating a whole hell of a lot more, but I didn't feel a lack of energy or endurance. In the beginning, yes. But I decreased my training for the first week while my body adapted. Then, I felt unstoppable. You may have a different experience though. I've learned over the years that no matter what my lifestyle looks like, my body just doesn't do well with a lot of carbohydrates. And, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to pack on the carbs to be an energized endurance athlete. I certainly know more power lifters and cross trainers who adopt this lifestyle than I do endurance athletes though.
- Is your current diet considered ketogenic?
- Maybe. I don't measure, track, or weigh my food but given that I don't really eat fruit, I rarely eat grains and legumes, and I enjoy starchy root veggies from time to time, I would guess my carb intake is substantially low, especially compared to previous years. The majority of my caloric intake comes from fats, without a doubt. I eat at least half a bar of dark (unsweetened) chocolate everyday, as well as whole avocados, and tons of coconut. I LOVE fat. My body thrives on fats. Again, I eat the way I eat because it makes me feel good. I enjoy feeling good! I don't restrict myself. If I want cookies, I eat cookies.
- Should I try it?
- If the list above sounds good to you and you don't have any condition which calls for special dietary restrictions, why not?
P.S. Email me first. ;)