Saturday, 27 August 2016

Post 21: Ketogenic Q&A (Part 1)

Hi guys,

This week I’ve opened the forum to you, and gone out asking to know exactly what you want to know. The purpose of this post is to answer some reader questions on ketogenic dieting, and cuts to the core of the problems people might be facing before they dive in. This post is going answer some questions at the beginner to intermediate level, which I’m hoping will encourage more of you to at least give this lifestyle a shot, and assuage any fears that you might be carrying!

I’ve had some amazing questions from you, the readers, and I’ve organised them into four rough categories. These are, in order: questions about getting started, questions about macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates), questions about diet sustainability, and questions about hacks and cheats. The only thing is, I got half way through the Q&A, and realised I had almost written way too much for just one post.  So to counter, this week we’ll look at questions on starting out and macronutrients/calories, and next week we’ll address sustainability and hacks and cheats. This way, I get to put more answer into every question and definitely write way too much for one post!

Let’s get this show on the road!

Q&A: getting started

Starting out on any journey can be daunting, so it helps to know what to expect. These questions should address any basic issues you may be having with ketogenic dieting. While any Keto 101 found via google will probably answer the most basic questions, I’ve added personal asides to each of my answers to provide “on the ground” info.

What can you expect when you just start the diet?

I’m not going to pull punches here, but one of the first things you might experience is the dreaded low carb/keto flu! It’s called this because of its similarity in symptoms rather than an actual virus, so don’t worry about it. These symptoms draw from the fact that you’re swapping your primary energy source to fats, and your body needs a few days to adjust properly to match its previous energy efficiency (or should I say inefficiency). The cool thing is, once the “flu” has subsided, you’re going to feel better than you did before via an improvement in energy efficiency. So it can appear tough to get started, and then when you do start, your fears are confirmed. But hold fast for a few days, because the benefits are just around the corner! I didn’t personally suffer from the keto flu myself, since I was already on a relatively low carb diet before going ketogenic, therefore you might benefit as I did from easing yourself in.

You can also expect to drop a lot of water weight. This is because when you are eating so few carbs, you carry less glycogen and therefore hold less water. For each gram of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) you will hold up to 3g of water. Considering the average human holds 400g of stored glycogen between their muscle (300g) and liver (100g) stores, you might be carrying 400*4=1600g=1.6kg of water weight. This amount will quickly reduce and for some people the joy of losing weight (water or not) will counteract their flu-like symptoms. This is something I definitely experienced, going both ways. When I went ketogenic my weight dropped rapidly for a few days before settling into a steady decrease. On the other hand, whenever I consume some more carbs, I will definitely weigh more the next day. I’m comfortable with this though, because I know most of it will be going towards restocking glycogen stores and not fat stores.

Why would you choose the ketogenic diet over the paleo diet?

I wouldn’t! I won’t pull any punches here, and I’ll wholeheartedly say that, in my opinion, the paleo diet trumps the ketogenic diet hands down. You’ll lose more weight and reach optimum health by eating a strict paleo diet compared to a ketogenic diet filled with artificial sweeteners and low-carb junk food.

But then again this all depends on our definition of the diets. If we define paleo as a dedication to natural, whole foods which we’re designed to eat, compared to merely being in ketosis by going to McDonald’s and having ordering the Big Mac without the bun, then it is obvious which side is going to win.

Me neither...
This is exactly the same problem with the assumption that all vegans or all vegetarians are healthy. You can eat lots of vegan junk food and you could have a Paleo diet which was excessively high in sugar (with ease - just check out the sugar values on some of the nut and berry bars labelled as paleo...).

Plus, that’s just how I define the two diets. I see the Paleo diet as holistic whole food focus while someone else might see it purely as dropping grains, sugars, and industrial oils.

However, it’s clear that these two styles of eating are not mutually exclusive. My recommendation would be to go paleo first to optimise health, then utilise ketosis to lose any additional weight. Going keto requires more dedication (limiting carbs drastically and being hyper aware of them) and therefore you should make sure you have your long term health in place first. Relapsing from ketogenic to the standard western diet is called yo-yo dieting. On top of that, paleo diets commonly turn out low carb so it’s a much easier transition.

Should men and women approach the ketogenic diet differently?

Yes - they should, on average. There are, of course, many women out there who perform better than certain men, but I am forced to make a generalisation here to answer the question (the most specific answer to this question would then be “it depends”). This is why being lazy just won’t cut it, you are going to need to experiment on yourself.

Ketogenic dieting can be considered a form of nutritional stress, and as discussed at length in my post on intermittent fasting, women’s bodies may not be best suited to this. Therefore, if you are female, then watch out for any signs of distress, particularly those related to fertility, which will act as your canaries in the coal mine.

If you try out ketogenic dieting, man or woman, and find that it messes you up (beyond the keto flu), ease off and re-introduce some carbs (maybe an additional 25g a day in three day intervals until you feel your best). Be prepared to wait three weeks though before making this judgement, some people take longer to bed in than others.

Q&A: macronutrients

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you might have expected this to be my favourite section (it is!). I personally love to know the mechanisms behind why the body does what it does. This section will answer questions regarding macronutrient counting, ratios, and by extension, calories. Remember you can always count calories using the following simple rules; 9 calories per gram of fat, 4 calories per gram of protein and carbs, and 2 calories per gram of fibre.

Should you/do you need to count calories?

If you pose this question as a strict necessity, then the answer must be no. You don’t need to count calories, and I personally don’t think it’s worth it. All you need to do is be mindful of how much you’re eating and watch whether the scales go up or down. Put together a week of data and you’ll have a very good idea of how much and what you eat while still dropping the pounds. As I said way (way) back in my post on whether you should count calories, it comes down to the person. Every once in awhile, though, it is useful to count them to make sure you’re not drastically under-eating. This comes with the assumption that someone who saw the scales go up would be making amends to what they ate anyway.

What is important is to count your macronutrients, at least to begin with, because you’re not going to be in ketosis if you’re eating excessive carbs and proteins. Read my ketogenic diet plan post for the correct levels of carbs and proteins to aim for. You never know where they might be adding up. When I started to count my macros I was very please with my carb intake, as it was below that 25g sweet spot even with a load of vegetables and moderate dark chocolate and nuts. It was my protein that was the problem: it was too low! That was an immediate signal to start increasing my protein. My only problem now, is that I’m enjoying my “one big meal” a day fasting protocol, which means having most of my protein all at once. This increases the risk of gluconeogenesis which isn’t conducive to ketosis! (#firstworldproblems) These are the things that are ticking through my mind...

What is the ideal macro ratio for the ketogenic diet?

Argh! This is another one of those “it depends” answers. Vary your ratios and use ketosis testing kits to assess whether you’re in it or not. Some people can tolerate more carbs and protein, and others cannot, but don’t assume your in one of these camps until you do some verified self experimentation.

What should you vary your macros around? A split of roughly 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs should be good to get you into ketosis. This is a split taken from my keto diet plan for someone weighing 200lbs, eating 0.8lbs of protein per gram of body weight, and 25g of total carbs a day.

I find that I need to keep my carbs low (under the 25g a day mark on non-workout days and under 50g on workout days), and protein around the 150g mark to keep up a steady weight loss.

What is the best app for calculating your macronutrients?

For those who are expecting me to come out and recommend something made by NASA, think again, because my preferred “app” for recording macros is a notebook , pen and calculator (okay, admittedly, the calculator is an app on my phone so those self-righteous quotation marks and only partly deserved…). Before anyone concludes that I am a luddite, perhaps you should correctly identify me as a perfectionist. Perfection occurs not when there’s nothing more to add, but nothing more to take away. There’s beauty in simplicity.

Nerd alert!
I’ve used MyFitnessPal before to count calories (not macros at that point), but I don’t like having to search for the individual food items and then being stuck when I can’t find them. Plus it drives us to rely on our phones more, which we already do enough of.

Instead, I prefer to write everything down as I prepare the food, then spend 15 minutes at some point in the day putting together the full numbers. It really doesn’t take long, which is why I prefer this method. You can save time too, by putting together a simple database of the values for the foods you eat and having it to hand for your calculations. Every time you eat a new food, just add it to the database. This way, you can set up the values for certain portion sizes, e.g. you always tend to eat a 150g portion of broccoli.

What happens when you eat too many carbs?

This question could easily have found its way into the first section of questions, but I thought it fit better here because of the “too many” part. To stay in ketosis you’ll need to eat roughly less than 25g of carbs a day or 50g if you’ve worked out, but like I said earlier, self experimentation is vital.

When you do eat more than this amount, your body will quickly swap back over to using glucose as its primary fuel. How long it takes to get back into ketosis will depend on your fat adaptation. So for someone doing ketosis for 6 months it will take (relatively) less time than someone just starting out. As a rule of thumb, it might take two to three days to return to 100%. I personally find after eating a heavy carbohydrate meal, I’ll feel bloated for the rest of the day, and it will take two days to get back to about 90% of my potential.

Why is protein intake just as important as carb intake?

Ketosis is defined by its ultra-low carb set up, but don’t forget protein. When excess protein is consumed it is converted into glucose (gluconeogenesis) which whacks you out of ketosis i.e. it has the same effect of too many carbs. That’s why it is good to experiment with different protein levels just as much as different carb levels. These can be varied on workouts days, so you might be having roughly 0.7 grams of protein a day for each lb of bodyweight, which you increase to 0.9g on workout days.

Carbohydrates get a tonne of focus when discussing keto so it might be easy to let protein levels fall by the wayside, especially since you can safely source a lot more energy from them. However, if you’re falling into that gluconeogenesis state, you’re not doing it right!

Revisiting the definition of the ketogenic diet laid out earlier, we should amend it to the following: very low carb, appropriate protein, and high fat.


I hope you enjoyed this post. Join us next week to address questions on sustainability and hacks/cheats, so stop by to learn my answers to questions such as: can you be a keto vegan? What is your number one tip for staying in Ketosis? And can you be ketogenic with sugar free diet drinks?

Before heading off to burn more fat, here’s this week’s takeaways:
  1. Self experimentation is vital; you don’t know whether you can tolerate more or less protein and carbs. Get those numbers wrong and…
  2. Measure your macronutrients for five days; you never know what you might be taking in
  3. Don’t let the keto flu stop you; endure for a few days and then you’ll start to feel terrific

That’s all folks! If you enjoyed the read, leave a like on your channel, and return next week for part 2.

Until next time,

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Post 20: A Day in the Keto Life (plus updates)

Hi Guys,

I get asked a lot by y’all about what I eat, and what I do on a day to day basis. This post is going to address these questions head-on and by the end of this week’s read you’ll have a good idea of what I am up to at the moment and my rationale behind my choices. Consider this a little catchup.

If you’re reading this week in week out, first of all - thanks! - , but more importantly, you’ll know that I’m trying out the ketogenic diet. Recently I’ve been consuming near zero carbs but in the last few days I’ve been going deeper into ketosis and actually decreasing my protein intake. I have also been extending my fasts and am now fasting for up to 20 hours every day - more info on that later. We’ll also take a peek at my choice of alcohol, and how that all fared for me.

But first I have to admit: the title to this post is a outright lie! After first thinking of writing a “day in the life” post to answer reader questions, I immediately got tracking my food, calories and macros, and recorded everything I did that day. The only problem (benefit?) was that I got awesome results in my next weigh-in. Screw a day in the life, how about three days in the life!

Sounds pretty good right? Quite informative? I agreed - but imagine my annoyance when I realised that there were some drinks planned for Friday evening which had been in the works for a long time, which would send a signal to you guys that I am actually human (facepalm). However, this is part and parcel of the lifestyle I want to lead i.e. not being absent from all social occasions. So instead, I decided to stick to my guns and use this is a perfect opportunity to display what I like to drink (alcohol wise) and how I got on in general. In fact, I am writing this introduction as of Thursday, so I don’t even know yet how it is going to go! There’s no backing out now, future Cowlean; you’ve written the intro and you know you won’t want to rewrite it even if events are disastrous...

Before we chew the fat (pun intended… of course!), let’s lay out what we’re looking at today:
  • What have I been eating day to day while on the ketogenic diet?
  • How many calories did I eat?
  • What was my personal macronutrient breakdown?
  • How did I cope with up to 20 hours fasts? How hungry did I feel?
  • What did I drink on Friday? How did it impact my performance?

That seems like a lot of our collective plates (huhuhuh…) so let’s get this show on the road!

Food, calories and macronutrients

People often ask me about exactly what I eat and I want to delve deep into that question. This post will differ from previous posts such as my other full day of eating since it will shed more light on the ketogenic style.

Here are my macronutrient breakdowns in full for day 1 and 2, and for half of day 3 (after about 18:00 counting became pretty difficult…):

Wednesday’s menu included a fatty coffee, minced beef with mixed vegetables, dark chocolate and brazil nuts. As you can see from above my carbs were well within ketogenic limits at around 16 grams total. This was quite interesting to find out, to be honest, as I have never really counted my macros so religiously while ketogenic. The fact that it came out so low, after indulging in some nuts, dark chocolate, and a load of veg, is very promising. This data is showing me that even when I ate my fill of the trace carb foods, I was still easily within the ketogenic limits. The only problem I had with this day is the protein content, which came in at 90 grams. Given my bodyweight I should be getting at least 120 grams a day, and probably a lot more. Why this happened, will be explained in more detail later in my section on fasts.

Daily calories came in at 2078, and the next day I had a crazy good weigh-in! So I decided to up the calories a little to compensate.

Next day, same good stuff and same bad stuff, I’m afraid. Carbs were low and in the ketogenic range easily (good), but protein was disastrously low at only 66 grams (bad)! Given these findings, I decided that it was essential that I pay more attention to my protein intake (which I did the next day). My diet consisted of a fatty coffee, mackerel with tonnes of vegetables, brazil nuts and dark chocolate.

Calories for the day were 2400, quite a step up from the day before, and my daily weigh-in actually went up by 1.6 lbs! I’d attribute this to one smaller reason, and one larger reason. The former would be the increase in calories, which I’ve attributed little effect to because of the small increase - 300 calories really isn’t going to make as much difference. The larger reason would be our old nemesis: water retention! Thursday included a heavy legs workout, and a lunch which was higher in sodium, both recipes for retaining more water. Given this effect, I would say I’d be happy having around 2400 calories a day going forward.  

Day 3 was a little different to those that came before, and these figures only count up until 18:00. Carbs were higher, around 34 grams, which is pushing the ketogenic limit especially on a non-exercise day, and mainly comes from me chowing down a tonne of 85% dark chocolate. I figured that the night’s festivities would push me out of ketosis, although these figures would still be considered a low carb diet by anyone’s standards.  Protein (by 18:00) was around 72 grams, so if the day was to carry on as usual I probably would have hit my protein goals.

Day 3’s food was a little different to previous, because I was meeting a friend for lunch for sushi (where I ate a load of sashimi). As well as lunch I had a fatty coffee, dark chocolate, coconut crisps and beef jerky. Taking a detour for a second: the latter two foods from that list were bought on the fly at work. When I am hungry and/or just really want to eat something I have a few rules of thumb when buying snacks: is it low carb and low sugar? How many ingredients does it contain? Is it gluten free? By answering these questions with yes, not many, and yes, it will often pass the test.

Calories by the time I stopped counting were 1700 on the nose, which I was okay with. I would have preferred to have this a tad lower considering we were going out that night, maybe around 1200. I find a good rule of thumb is always leave half your calories for the nighttime if you’re going to be doing anything, including just meeting up with friends and family for a meal. This gives you ample room for drinks and any unplanned meals.

I have to admit that this has really been an eye-opening process. By recording what I ate and then analysing it I’ve now got a great idea of what I need to do to improve my ketogenic diet. A food diary is a common recommendation for dieters, and given my own, albeit short, experience, I would  recommend it to everyone, if only for a short time to get perspective. I’ve decided to maintain my food diary until the end of the week.

Measuring in this way, has pushed me to take on two points going forward. Point 1) maintain the same level of vegetables, but restrict total carbs from dark chocolate to 10 grams, which isn’t hard at all when you’re having 85%. It works out to around 50 grams - more than enough. Point 2) increase protein intake and ensure that I am getting at least 120 grams a day, and preferably 150 grams. The levels of protein I’ve been eating are tied into my fasting protocol which I’ll describe now.

20 hour fasts

Impressive right? You betcha!... A full description of the benefits of fasting can be found here, and by extending them you can receive the benefits in greater magnitude (to a point… of course, if you don’t eat for long enough…). As you can see from the below, my fasts have gotten a lot longer with most of my calories coming from one large meal post-workout at around midday.

This has actually worked out really well, with the most immediate benefits coming in the form of time management. By doing so, you save yourself the time of cooking and eating one meal a day, since you only need prepare a large one each evening to have at lunchtime the next day. On top of that, it makes controlling macros and calories much easier, because everything is done in advance. While I have been feeling a little hungry in the evenings, around 7 or 8pm, this is just because of the adjustment to not eating during the afternoon and evening. I felt the same way when I transitioned to a 12-8 eating window so it’s just a matter of time before I’m well settled in this one too.

Here’s the breakdown of my fasting times over the three days:

Finish eating previous day
Fatty Coffee
Length of Fast
Length of Ketogenic Fast
18 hours
22.25 hours
16.5 hours
21.25 hours
17.25 hours
21.5 hours

*Denotes the first meal of the day which included protein and trace amounts of carbs

The other problem alluded to earlier has been protein intake. Since I was only eating a single large meal plus some satellite snacks, I was setting up my usual protein portion for lunch but then not having another one later in the day. This wasn’t something I expected to happen but I’m glad I tracked it and became aware of it.


This is a question I receive often: “what do I drink on a night out?”. First we need to face the truth: that any form of alcohol consumption is bad for your health. For those who pipe up with recommendations for “a small glass of red wine a day”, consider that the level of antioxidants in wine is miniscule, and is entirely suboptimal compared to fruits and vegetables. In which case, our task is damage limitation.

I focus on clear spirits and aim for the highest quality I can afford (as I do when buying any kind of produce), with minimal mixers. For example, this Friday I started with tequila, a splash of soda and lime wedges (like a margarita without the sugar) and then when I felt like I wanted something extra I switched over to gin and tonic. I think by sticking to the high quality, distilled, and low/no gluten alcohols I spared myself the hangovers of my colleagues but still got to enjoy a great night. I didn’t wake up feeling the 100% which I know I am capable of, but I think a lot of this is down to sleep (I find that it’s hard to shake your weekday body clock on weekends even after going to bed late), and the alcohol would have undoubtedly knocked me out of ketosis. I’m sure that by Monday I’ll be back to feeling 90% again.  


I hope you enjoyed this week’s post and found it interesting to see exactly what I am up to. I’m on a health/fitness/wellness journey just as much as anyone else, and I love that I have the chance to share this with people all over the globe. Given the three neat sections of today’s post, let’s have three neat takeaways:
  1. Start a food diary for five days and measure your fat, protein, and carb amounts; just a few days of data is going to make a big difference to your understanding
  2. If you’re not already fasting - give it a shot, and if you are already fasting - try out some extended fasts and watch your results
  3. For the best results, focus your alcohol consumption on clear spirits with minimal mixers

Until next time,


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Post 19: Ketogenic Workouts

Hi Guys,

What does conventional wisdom say about exercise? That it needs to be fueled by carbohydrates? That you will be weak without them? That to maintain a high level of performance for long periods you’ll require careful glycogen strategies and intra-workout (mid-workout) designer gels?

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that I recently started ketogenic dieting (less than 25g of carbs a day), which I’ve documented in a post on my general experience (link) and a meal plan (link). This post will continue on that theme and address three topics: 1) the benefits of ketogenic workouts, 2) how you can expect a ketogenic diet to affect your performance, and 3) how it affected my own workouts.

The three types of workouts we are going to address are cardio sessions (endurance) and HIIT and strength sessions (explosive workouts).

I want to stress that there are good and bad parts (although these are few in number) to ketogenic workouts. As always, there is no free lunch.

General advantages and endurance workouts

First we need to introduce a definition. We should define responsible, effective endurance training as long periods of low intensity aerobic exercise. What is aerobic exercise? Aerobic exercise occurs when your heart rate is in the aerobic heart rate zone, which can be ascertained using the Maffetone 180 formula. Essentially, if your heart rate is under 180- your age, plus or minus 10 to account for health and circumstance, you are performing at an aerobic capacity. Check out Dr. Maffetone’s website here where he fully describes his rationale for the formula. The 180 rule is a simple and effective way to check your activity level.

Above this level is anaerobic activity - a state where we burn stored carbohydrates (muscle and liver glycogen) to induce maximal output (think life or death moments). Being in an anaerobic state is an acute stressor to the body, i.e. acute as in it should not happen often and there should be sufficient rest in between. This is opposed to chronic stress, which occurs consistently and is debilitating. Therefore, the anaerobic zone should only be entered sporadically.

The first advantage of training in a ketogenic state is the fat burning. When training at aerobic levels your body will increasingly utilise fat stores for energy. There’s no need for intra-workout fuel as it can be found all over your body! Also, and importantly, as you train more in ketosis, your body will start to use fat as a fuel in greater proportions. When you begin to exercise you use a higher proportion of glucose for energy. As the workout progresses, given you stay in that aerobic state, this proportion will decrease and be replaced with stored fat as a fuel source. So as your workout continues, you burn fat over glucose for energy. Now, what’s cool about ketogenic workouts is that as you perform them more often your body will make this transition quicker. Hence, the carbs that you do eat are “spared” (called glycogen sparing i.e. stored carbohydrate sparing), and saved for later anaerobic sessions.

On top of that, as you train more in the aerobic range you’ll be able to complete more strenuous workouts at the same heart rate. This is called improving your fitness! You will also become more energy efficient. This in turn pushes the level where you reach anaerobic activity a little higher, hence improving your explosive workouts too. Part of what’s spurred me to start looking into ketogenic workouts more is Mark Sisson’s work on fat fueled workouts (read his daily blog here or pick up his book here). Mark knows his stuff, and heartily recommends having a strong aerobic base, which after digging around myself I have found to be true. Therefore, these long, low intensity workouts should be beneficial to you even if you are a powerlifter who’s only focus is strength, explosive power, and anaerobic activity!

The next benefit is that fat burns cleaner than glucose. Energy (adenosine triphosphate - ATP) is produced inside the mitochondria of every cell. Mitochondria are often described as little energy factories, and the unfortunate truth is that creating ATP via glucose burning leads to undesirable byproducts such as free radicals. These lead to inflammation and aging as oxygen travels around your body and oxidises other molecules (think about how iron rusts…). Burning fat in the mitochondria is more efficient, leading to a greater creation of ATP from each gram of carbon, and less of those undesirable byproducts. Altogether, burning fats for your endurance workouts is much more supportive of your overall health and goals.

Like I said earlier, this isn’t a free lunch, but it is close...

By training in the aerobic range using fats as an ever increasing proportion of your fuel, you’ll be getting more bang for your buck. So if you really want to scrape the barrel for negatives, it would be the psychology of going easy on yourself!

You’ve been programmed for years that “no pain no gain” is real. It is, you need to stress your body to induce a positive adaptation, but you don’t have to kill yourself in the process.

The negative might be that you slow down your endurance training and think that you aren’t putting enough work in, or that others will judge you. The truth is that you’re actually laying the groundwork for great  success in the future. Life really is an inside job…

But it truthfully could be tough for you to adapt, especially type-A personalities who want to lay it all on the line. Slowing down in one area is going to let you speed up elsewhere.

So overall, ketogenic endurance training gets a glowing report. It is suitable for those who want to stay fit and improve their fitness. It is great for those who want to burn fat. And it’s great for people who want to (indirectly) improve their explosive workouts. A+.

HIIT and strength training

When it comes to explosive workouts, the story becomes a little muddled. It actually makes more sense to start with the disadvantages here.

To begin with you will feel a little weaker, which should be expected. You’re not filling up your glycogen stores to the max every day (and you’re also not consuming a high amount of inflammatory carbs which contribute to fat gain either but whatever…) and therefore there will be less backing that anaerobic workout.

However, this puts us at an impasse: a fork in the road where you need to make a choice between two paths. 1) eat more carbs hence increasing your glycogen stores and maintain the same level of your workouts, but at the same time knock yourself out of ketosis. Or 2) eat in the ketogenic manner, take a hit to your workouts for now, and then allow improvements in your aerobic base to channel their way to your anaerobic activity.

Of course by now, you should know the path that I would (that I did) take. I much prefer the overall benefits of ketosis compared to those that could be gained from glycogen stocking. In my opinion, those benefits are marginal when compared to the ones I am enjoying now. Like I said earlier, when we operate in a ketogenic state at low levels of activity, we are actually doing the groundwork to push ourselves in the future. Over time, maximal output will increase and so will strength and muscle gains.

My experience

One of the reasons that I transitioned to a ketogenic diet was because I was going into the last weeks of a cut (fat loss period). This has also pushed me to introduce some cardio to eek out the last few gains. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not going into the black hole of chronic cardio. What is the black hole? The black hole is a mixture of long endurance workouts at an anaerobic heart rate. They’re not good for fat burning like aerobic endurance workouts, and they’re equally bad at building muscle, strength and explosive power. Participating in chronic cardio and the black hole is like buying a one-way ticket to snap city, with stop-offs at lean mass breakdown, stress, and food cravings.

So what did I actually do? Over the past two weeks I’ve competed four endurance sessions (inclined walking) of roughly 20 minutes in length, monitoring my heart rate using the 180 rule (my average was around 130 bpm). At this early stage, I haven’t invested yet in a proper heart rate monitor so I just had to use the detection handles of the machines at the gym, but it will do for now. I also completed a HIIT session on the stationary bike, doing 30 seconds of sprinting followed by one and a half minutes of slow cycling for four rounds. On top of that I was completing my usual strength training.

As expected, I did feel a little weaker in my strength training, although I did still complete all of my sets (just!). What I found interesting, was that I felt stronger when I was working out fasted i.e. before eating any protein or super low carb veg. This is something I would like to investigate a little more, since it really does fly in the face of CW. When I worked out fasted my last meal would have been 14-15 hours previous. Compare that to when I worked out later in the day when the closest meal was only five hours beforehand. Perhaps this says something about running off of ketones and your own fat stores.

Bodyfat %

It might also point towards my desk job (i.e. sedentary), and that therefore I would have been seated for longer periods pre-workout. In addition, I drink caffeine via my fatty coffee in the morning, which would be closer to the workout, but I would be reluctant to test this out using caffeinated coffee before a later workout due to the effects on sleep, so this will require me to get some decaf. The whole coffee artifact, however, leads to to the same conclusion as the preceding paragraph. The coffee itself would be helping my body to mobilise fat stores for fuel, hence making stored fat fueled workouts yield better returns.

Alternatively, it could be the additional fats consumed in the morning in the form of butter and coconut oil which were helping out. This could be the case, but then again it would be in the wrong form to be aiding anaerobic activity.

With regards to my endurance and HIIT sessions, I am only just starting these so it will require more data for me to say anything concrete (especially with HIIT).

One immediate benefit I have seen from the whole thing, is smoothness in daily weigh-ins. This sounds like an odd benefit to enjoy, and truthfully it is only psychological. By avoiding up-downs in water weight you can often watch your weight slowly reduce, so you get a more consistent idea of how much fat you’re losing. Here’s a graph of my weight over the past two weeks. Barring the cheat day I had on day 7 (where I went way, way over the top at an unlimited asian tapas meal…), there was a nice smoothness in the numbers which you can see properly in the graphical representation. Compare this to way back in May when I wrote about bulletproof intermittent fasting and you see how the numbers were swinging around a heck of a lot more. Now, I know that the below doesn’t blow you out of the water with results, but that’s because I’m at a different level of dieting now where gains are harder to come by. Overall psychologically, though, I much prefer this pattern as I can enjoy each daily weigh-in rather than just appreciate the big weekly one.


Before I go I need to remind you all of one important fact: that this is just an N=1, so you can’t make solid conclusions from the data, but it at least shows that it is possible. Peter Attia writes an amazing blog all about health and fitness at Eating Academy, and has written many equally amazing articles on the interplay of ketosis and exercise here and here. It’s not for the faint hearted but it’s worth the read. He also draws attention to a particular analogy: that if you spot a black sheep, you can only know that at least one black sheep exists at that point in time on one side. It’s not conclusive evidence, but it’s sure possible! Don’t disregard any experience just as an N=1, instead understand that you should test on yourself and come to your own conclusions!

Given our whirlwind tour of ketogenic workouts, here’s this week’s takeaways:
  1. Build a strong aerobic base using the 180 rule
  2. Stick with the strength workouts, and look forward to long term strength gains
  3. Pay attention to your own N=1, question what you know about glycogen and workouts, and take note of how you feel and perform

That’s your lot! Go out into the world and apply this knowledge!

Until next time,