My journey into ketosis was full of mistakes and an unhealthy, obsessive need to test everything!
Being a human guinea pig seemed like a fun idea to me and gave me good reason to finally start this ketogenic style of eating. Little did I know, that would play havoc and make me completely obsessed!
A good friend/mentor of mine said to me at the start of this process, the ketogenic diet is like a temperamental girlfriend/boyfriend… “When you treat them well and say and do all the right things, then it can be smooth sailing and make everything that much better… However, there will be times you think you’re saying or doing the right things and it will blow up in your face. Treat it with respect and be careful.” When he said this to me, I thought he was joking! But after a few weeks, I knew exactly what he was talking about…
Now I’m not someone who likes doing things half way, so I thought the best way to start the ketogenic diet was to slip straight from a predominantly high carb diet, which was made up of considerable amounts of starchy carbs like sweet potato, rice and fruits into next-to-no carbs with HIGH amounts of fat.
Mistake number 1: High to low carbs in a day
Dropping from high carbs can be like coming off drugs (well what I would imagine it to be like). Your brain’s default fuel source is glucose (not in ketosis), so when the consumption of carbs is drastically reduced, your body will have about 2 to 3 days of stored glucose dependant on a few factors. After the first and second day, I started to get brain fog, confusion and lethargy. My brain was like, “why are you starving me of my fuel…” And I was like, “shut up, I’m trying this new diet no matter what you say!” If I had my time again, I would have titrated down my carbs over several weeks, for a more comfortable adjustment.
Mistake number 2: Fat bomb
After reading several blogs, books and listening to many podcasts on the ketogenic diet, I rammed in my new fuel source, named fat. From all my reading and research, I had many meals/recipes I wanted to try, all containing an abundance of fats… And of course, the “healthy” kind of fats, in particular coconut oil. What I didn’t take note of was how the fat needs to be consumed and possibly increasing my fat consumption in a slow and controlled manner. For those of you that are familiar with coconut oil or “MCTs” (medium chain triglycerides), there is an upper tolerance level that your GI tract can handle before you get “disaster pants.” I worked out that on day one, eating a “fat bomb ice cream” (see recipe here) which is concoction of coconut oil/cream and various other things equalling 1,000 calories, wasn’t what my stomach was ready for… Lesson learned. Much like carbs, titrate up and you MUST keep fibre high. Keeping fibre high will enable proper absorption of fat rather than running to the bathroom every 5 minutes!
Mistake number 3: Becoming obsessive and compulsive with ketosis
For first timers starting this diet, it’s a good idea to test at different times of the day to find out what level of ketosis you’re in. Until you’re experienced and know what it feels like to be in a state of ketosis, it’s a good idea to identify this and see what foods and activities work to keep you there. Being someone that likes following this to the letter, I bought myself a Precision-Xtra blood ketone monitor (the gold standard of testing) and proceeded to test myself after just about anything and everything… I think when you initially start to deprive yourself of carbs, your brain can go a little crazy and I can certainly vouch that I went crazy knowing whether or not I was in ketosis. Not only can this create and reinforce OCD, but it can also send you broke, with the test strips costing up to $5 per test. So, testing yourself 3 to 4 times a day can be a costly measure that can send you crazy!
The upside and benefits
Now it wasn’t all doom and gloom on this diet. From an outsider looking in, it seems very restrictive and not much fun. I’m not going to lie, it is challenging and does make you think about what you’re putting in your mouth. But for all its draw backs, there are some potentially huge benefits that can offset these!
Lesson and benefit number 1: you don’t need that much protein.
Coming from a weight training background, there is this mentality that to get big and strong you must eat lots of protein. If a little is good, then a lot must be even better! Now yes, you do need adequate levels of protein to build muscle and be healthy, but it is commonly over eaten in gym culture. There are countless “chemically assisted” self-confessed nutritional experts that tell people to eat 1kg of meat per day and you will get ripped like them! Yes, if you are taking steroids, then your nutritional requirements might be slightly different, but be careful when listening to what they eat and think that’s what you need also.
I dropped my protein consumption close to half (188g per day to 100g per day), when on the ketogenic diet and had no muscle loss whatsoever. In fact, I had a significant increase in both strength and muscle. Now this can be highly specific to each individual as per their requirements, but the point to note is, don’t get trapped into thinking a certain way without testing it first!
Lesson and benefit number 2: skipping meals and saving time
This was an absolute game changer and a huge time saver for me. I went from eating 4 to 5 meals per day, with roughly 2 to 3 hours in between each meal, to 2 meals per day: lunch and dinner. When you are in ketosis, there is a noticeable drop in satiety and the desire to constantly eat. As your blood sugars and insulin levels are low throughout the day, you don’t have the need to constantly eat to keep your brain and body functioning. In fact, you can fast with very little effort.
I originally thought that if I didn’t eat and give my muscles a constant supply of fuel then my performance in the gym would drop. Prior to this diet, I was someone who did a lot of meal/supplement timing around my workouts to try and maximise my results and recovery. In this diet, I would go into my workouts in a fasted state, lift PBs (personal bests), 180kg for 5 reps on a deadlift and then not eat for several hours after the workout and still recover. It was a paradigm shift for me and not to mention, saved me considerable time in food prep and not having to sit down to eat for 20-30 minutes at a time.
Lesson and benefit number 3: even energy and improved cognitive performance
Originally this was the main benefit that I was hoping to experience from the outset, after reading about it. Now it can be over sold and glamorised by other famous bloggers, but there are still noticeable benefits in this area that I experienced. The best way I can describe it is “even energy,” with no peaks and troughs. At some stage, people have all experienced that feeling in the mid-afternoon, where they become sleepy and need a hit of some sugar to make it through the rest of the day. On this diet, it is literally the opposite feeling, of being alert and having energy all day with no noticeable drop off! Not sure if it was a placebo effect, but I did notice my concentration for deep work improve. I was able to spend longer amounts of time sitting and focused on whatever task I was doing.
I hope you are able to learn from my mistakes and give thought to possibly trying or assessing if some of these principles can apply to your lifestyle. Like I have said countless times before, you need to assess how this works for you and measure the benefits or negatives to understand if it’s the right fit for you!
If you would like to know more and get a detailed plan of how to implement this program, I have broken it down into two different step-by-step programs. The first program is for FREE and can be accessed by submitting your email below. In this program, it gives you the basics and the steps needed to get into ketosis safely and effectively.
The second program is a more detailed, in depth with specifics and gives hacks on how to get into ketosis quicker with less side effects. This program can be purchased for just $5 here.
Burn fat and be healthy,
P.S. here is my latest YouTube video talking about some of the key points of Nutritional ketosis