During the pandemic, I had a lot of spare time to try things out, so I tried going keto. I thought it was a good idea after reading a lot about it. It seemed like I could reduce fat mass pretty quickly, which was my goal. It also looked like an excellent opportunity to clear my liver. Finally, I wanted to re-establish my relationship with food, as I had demonized some items when I was doing Noom.
If you want to learn about the ketogenic diet, there are many videos online; here is my favorite.
Those who swear by the keto diet claim some benefits:
- An enhanced mental clarity,
- A more stable mood.
- Automatic calorie intake control.
- Being able to enjoy those fatty treats, etc.
- Medically, it is used to treat epilepsy and diabetes.
During my tests, I could confirm some of these claims and bust others. I also will share how it affected me during the time I did it.
Before going keto, I counted calories and measured my body composition without paying attention to the ratios of my macronutrients (macros for short). The first step was to think about these macros and gradually reduce the carbs; this happened a week before ‘keto day one.’ At the same time, I began researching keto from different resources and bought a cookbook on Amazon.
During the first week, I minimized my intake of carbs by removing grains, rice, cereals, fruits, and starchy vegetables from my diet. There are some fruits like berries that are still ok to eat.
By doing this, I noticed some changes :
- I felt thirstier.
- I visited the bathroom much more often.
- I didn’t have any trouble reaching my calorie goal.
- I struggled to eat enough food because I was feeling full and satisfied.
By the end of the first week, I experienced the ‘keto flu,’ which I thought was regular flu. I even got a little scared of the possibility of having COVID-19 as I had visited several airports. It started with a 5-mile hike in the snow. Suddenly, I felt Ill. I spent two days in bed with the shivers. It all ended after having a very salty Thai soup that made me feel better instantly. Apparently, my sodium levels were too low.
Week two came with the first lockdown. I decided to shop for groceries and follow the meal plan from my keto book. I followed it to the T.
I enjoyed cooking foods like meatloaf and cauliflower mash. It felt refreshing to go all-in with cream and butter while cooking. I could not develop a liking for keto sweets based on stevia.
I monitored daily my ketone levels with the urine straps. I was happy to observe that having a PB&J sandwich in the middle of a long bike ride did not kick me out of ketosis.
- The first two weeks I lost about 6lb of water weight. At the same time, my body composition went the opposite way I wanted. Reduced lean body mass and gained fat mass. I think, though, it was part of the fat-adaptation process.
- I restored my relationship with fatty foods. I got to experience with ingredients I had demonized and cooked meals I didn’t think of healthy before.
- My mood was very stable, but I didn’t get any additional mental clarity. If anything, I found it harder to focus. I believe it’s also part of the adaptation process.
- My appetite and eating patterns changed. Moved to just three meals a day without snacking in between. I felt satisfied most of the time. I had to force myself to eat more; otherwise, I’d have less than 1400 calories a day, which is even below my BMR.
- I felt weaker: I could barely do ten push-ups. I felt my usual weights more challenging, and while cycling, my legs felt the strain on roads that before didn’t feel that challenging.
- My endurance improved; I could ride 100km on my bike while eating very little food.
- Snacking was hard. It’s hard to find keto snacks in grocery stores; these snacks also typically need refrigeration. Hiking or riding bikes is not compatible with refrigerated snacks. You end up only carrying Jerky, nuts, or packets of nut butter. Even some nuts have too many carbs to be considered keto. Virtually everything has sugars, so if you want to follow it by the T, you need to be a good planner.
Going Keto was a good decision from the learning perspective. I learned a lot about nutrition, and I learned about my own body. It also showed me that it’s impractical if I’m not at home where I can control every aspect of it. Would I do it again? No. As an athlete, it’s not my goal to compromise lean body mass, and I need the bursts of energy that only carbohydrates give. I would recommend it only for people who want to learn how to control their calories or lose the fear of eating oils and healthy fats. If you already know how to manage your weight, then intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean diet seems to be a better long-term sustainable solution—my two cents.