Sunday, 31 July 2016

Post 17: 2 Weeks Ketogenic (My Keto Review)

Hi Guys,

I’m back again this week, but not quite the same as before. Again I have been transformed into a human guinea pig for your benefit…

For the past two weeks I have been trying out a ketogenic diet for you guys, and I’m here to provide my results, my thoughts, and the challenges I faced. I write this while simultaneously sipping on a freshly brewed coffee blended with 50g of Kerrygold Pure Irish butter and 20g of organic extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil. I’m losing weight at the same time. How? Let’s read on...

I’m closing in on the end of my dieting phase, and I really want to cut away at those “last few pounds” and see how far I can push myself. These are those famous “last few pounds” that actually can be lost around my abdomen because I have mostly used up my fat stores elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong: I feel great, I’m in great health, and I look great, but I want to see where I can go if I really dig deep and try out advanced weight loss methods. This puts me in a great position to review these sort of methods for y’all!

It’s true that ketogenic dieting and going into sustained ketosis is an advanced technique, and I doubt someone eating a standard western diet would be able to just dive straight in. That’s why I conclude this article by giving you a solid plan for working your way into a ketogenic diet.

I’ve been in this game for a while, and I know I’ve gone further down the path of fat adaption (the efficiency with which your body utilises fat stores) than a lot of people out there, so launching into the lifestyle wasn’t too hard. In fact, as you operate in ketosis more often, you actually become better at it! This is because your body becomes better at producing ketone bodies.

Ketone bodies!?... wtf…

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself because first of all we need to address…

What is ketosis?

Straight off the bat, I think it’s best to introduce what ketosis is and what ketogenic dieting entails.

Briefly, ketosis is a state where your body primarily burns fat for energy. It does this by mobilising fat stores and shuttling them around in energy packets called blood ketones (rather than blood glucose). Sounds good right?

You enter ketosis when liver sugar stores (called liver glycogen i.e. stored glucose) are low, and you can induce this through fasting and very low carbohydrate diets. Once carbs are low enough, you are effectively in a ketogenic diet. In times of starvation and famine, ketosis ensured that we could still function at a high level and focus enough to hunt or gather that next meal. In fact, many people report having a much better and more constant energy level while in ketosis.

This makes a lot of sense: when there isn’t much food around, our bodies move up a gear in order to aid us in finding food!

To get deeper into ketosis beyond the overnight fast, and to maintain it beyond an intraday level (i.e. not moving in and out during the day), you need to eat a very low carbohydrate diet, with the consensus being less than 20g of carbs a day.

This is why I consider it a technique that most people aren’t able to dive straight into. You’re taking people who might not be well fat adapted and simultaneously removing a staple macronutrient from their diet (carbohydrates). It’s hard enough to get people to break off their tumultuous relationship with grains as it is! In the plan I’ve included at the end of this post, I give you an idea of how to ease yourself into a ketogenic diet.

How did I achieve ketosis?

To enter ketosis I did two things, one of which I was doing already. The one I was doing already was intermittent fasting (described here) or more specifically bulletproof intermittent fasting (described here). By eating either nothing or purely fats for an extended period - 16 consecutive hours every day - my body is forced to swap into “fat burning mode” because liver glycogen stores are depleted.

The other thing I changed is what truly made this a ketogenic diet. In order to be in ketosis all day, rather than just in the fasting period, I needed to heavily limit carbohydrate intake. To do so, I cut out all starchy carb sources and all fruit. This meant that my only carb source were leafy green vegetables, and a limited consumption of nuts and very dark chocolate.

While I didn’t religiously count my carbs, they were definitely around or under 20g for the vast majority of days. On a couple of days, I ate a lot more nuts than I should of, in which case I estimate my daily intake for those days to be around 40g.

The results

Over the last two weeks I’ve lost 2.4 lbs, which by my reckoning is pretty darn good! Considering that since I started to diet my average weekly loss is 1.27 lbs, including all the initial water weight, this is an awesome result. There exists diminishing returns to dieting, so over time you can expect to lose less weight as each week goes on, so to lose roughly the average amount over the last two weeks means that I’m not slowing down at all. This also highlights why trying out these advanced techniques are very important if your current goal exists outside of whatever homeostasis you’re headed towards. Furthermore, like I said earlier, I’m at an advanced stage of dieting, a stage where the fat loss can actually be noticed around my abs. It’s quite cool to be able to lose weight and actually see the change in my body quite quickly.

What about other, more subjective markers? I didn’t feel like I lost my energy during the period. I wasn’t tired, and I wasn’t hungry. Remember that being in ketosis or going on a ketogenic diet doesn’t mean limiting calories, just limiting carbs.

I was able to complete all of my sets during my workouts, and still put my all into my weekly five-a-side football match (my cardio effectively). Although, I did rest for a little longer in between sets for my weight lifting sessions. An interesting result I came across was that for one leg day, I ate a lot more beforehand, and felt considerably stronger during the workout. This would be what you would expect, had this been extra food from carbohydrate sources. However, as I was limiting carbs, this extra food came from fats and proteins, and therefore would not have been refilling my muscle glycogen (muscle energy) stores.


Two other things happened to me during my experience. My first regards to sugar: it was only when I did eat a little dark chocolate (85+ %  cocoa solids), that I actually felt any desire for carbohydrates and sugars. It was as if I was reminding my body of them. Otherwise I didn’t want them at all. Therefore to contribute to the sustainability of a ketogenic diet maybe someone should avoid these foods in their entirety, or eat them before a workout or before going to bed. That way they won’t experience any cravings (the workout would dominate headspace or you’d be asleep).

The other thing I craved was salt. Looking into this a bit more, it makes a lot of sense. When you don’t consume carbs, your body will hold onto a lot less water weight, and therefore you’ll need to urinate more. This leads to the expulsion of electrolytes, hence the craving for salt. In contrast to the sugar craving, this is one which you should satisfy! Your body doesn’t need sugar, but it sure as hell needs salt! Listen to what your body needs in this case, and don’t be afraid to add salt to your food.


I really liked the results I got from this two week trial period, so I think I’m going to continue for another two weeks and take stock. If it carries on giving me the same results and I stay healthy and feel good, then that’s fantastic.

You need to remember that in no way is eating carbohydrates essential to life. Your body can actually produce glucose by converting dietary proteins through a process called gluconeogenesis. But then again, it does feel good to have some carbs now and then, and you will rock your next workout when you have some! So to make this practice a long term one, I would recommend having a carb refeed every 10-14 days. I realise not everyone is as nuts about this schpiel as I am, so you need to address your own psychology (this is where the refeed comes in). I’m planning on having one in the next few days, where I’ll take in roughly 200g of clean carbs (white rice and sweet potatoes), and some fruit.

As always, you need to know the positive and negative effects of the refeed. As I said, your next workout will be awesome, and you’re contributing to the sustainability of such a diet. The consumed carbohydrates are going to go straight to muscle and liver glycogen stores (i.e. not to fat stores), which is another benefit of ketogenic eating. On the other hand, you will temporarily drop out of ketosis, and for a time not burn as much fat. You might see your energy levels fall off of that fat-burning induced peak, and you might experience some cravings in the next three days following the refeed.

This is something I want to stress when it comes to health and food, in particular. Each action has a set of positive and negative consequences, some more positive, and some vastly negative. You need to expect and manage the negatives to get to the point which suits you best.

Ketogenic diet plan

As promised earlier, here’s a plan you could follow which would ease you into a ketogenic diet. Along the way, you’d also get used to fasting and at the same time you’ll be cleaning up what you ate. I’m confident that you could easily lose at least 10 lbs (/5 kg) over this five week period.

You can dive in at the deep end if you think you can handle it, but if you misjudge your own character you’re unlikely to find it sustainable. This is quite a big change for most people.

Carbs (g)
IF eating window
What to eat
Focus only on limiting carbs to the set amount
Cut out all grains and refined carbs
Reduce fruit intake to 1 portion a day
Reduce carb intake to 1 small portion a day
Keto: <20
Cut out starchy carbs and fruit entirely. Refeed every 10-14 days using 200g of carbs.

To begin with you focus only on getting a handle on the grams of carbs you’re eating each day. Focus on counting the grams of carbs coming from starchy and sugary sources (including chocolate, sweets, and fruit). You then progress to cutting out carb sources in your life which are low in micronutrients; at this point I would get all of my starchy carbs from white rice, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Next take your consumption of fruit down to one portion a day, and have low sugar berries such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. For a full discussion on fruit consumption check out my article here. In week 4 you’ll be at a point where you don’t feel like you need many carbs, and you’ll be well on the way to fat adaption. This movement is completed in week 5, where starchy carbs and fruit are cut out entirely.

Throughout the process ensure that you are eating lots of leafy green and other low carbohydrate vegetables to get your micronutrient and fibre intake

Also, over these five weeks you’ll be able to build a healthy intermittent fasting pattern, which will aid you in getting into ketosis. Don’t eat anything outside of the eating windows except for fat.


So, there you have it, my ketogenic dieting review. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I get good results? Yes. Am I going to continue it for the time being? Yes. Would I recommend it for others? Yes, and you should ease yourself into it if you’d like to try it. Overall it is an interesting place to put your body, somewhere where you might never actually have been before. In the long run, if you don’t like it, then you really haven’t given up much just to try it out.

Here are the takeaways for this week:
  1. Ketogenic diets involve going into long term ketosis i.e. “fat burning mode”
  2. This is achieved at a greater than intraday level via fasting and very low carb diets
  3. Try out a ketogenic diet by easing yourself in over a month long period

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you find the research useful. If you have gone keto before, or decide to try it out, leave a comment below.

Until next time,

P.S. I’ve started snapchatting what I get up to on the day to day, so add me on snapchat (username: tomcowlin) for daily updates

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