My Keto Experiment
As I started to hear more and more about the Ketogenic diet, my initial response was one of resistance. The reason for this is that I have never (like EVER) done a low carb diet. I never believed in them because everyone I ever met that did Atkins, South Beach or another variation of low carb, eventually gained all their weight back once they started to eat carbs again.
My other issue related to the Ketogenic diet was my concern over the foods I saw people eating. In case you don’t know me, I am all about eating whole, unprocessed foods and I personally eat as much organic food and grass fed meat as I can find. I see people on social media eating lots of bacon which contains nitrates or nitrites, a chemical added to preserve shelf life and enhance color. Diets high in processed meats have been linked to chronic health conditions. I also see many people eating lots of sour cream, cheese and other dairy products which can cause inflammation. I’m not saying cheese in and of itself is the enemy, but I wouldn’t normally consume high quantities and I do look for raw and/or organic cheese. To say I was against this way of eating would be an understatement. But, the more and more I started to research what a Ketogenic diet was, the more curious I became. I started to wonder if the way of eating I saw some people following wasn’t the diet itself, but more about the way people were interpreting the diet.
Due to the research I was reading on how this way of eating is helpful for those with epilepsy, Metabolic syndrome (sometimes referred to as prediabetes), diabetes, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer's, I decided that, as a coach, I needed to explore this. The only way I could truly give my honest opinion was to experience it myself. I also knew I would be able to admit if I was wrong about the Ketogenic diet.
During this same period of time I had a few friends start working for a network marketing company that sells exogenous ketones. I decided to purchase a 10 day sample and go on a journey myself.
So What Happened?
I did some reading, downloaded an app to count my macros, and got started. This is where it got interesting. On day 3 of my journey, I was in Blacksburg, Virginia on a college tour for our son. It was unseasonably warm outside that day and we had just finished our tour and went to a tailgate to meet a friend. As we started walking in the parking lot, I started to feel strange. I grabbed onto my husband’s arm and told him I didn’t feel right. That was the last thing I remember. It happened so fast. The next thing I remember was seeing my daughter telling me to look at her eyes. I had passed out!! This has NEVER happened to me in my entire life and was definitely a scary experience. My husband had run to get the paramedics who were on sight. (Here is a picture of me with the paramedics. Thankfully by this point I was feeling better)
I was so embarrassed but they had to check me out to make sure I was okay. Thankfully all my vitals were normal. After this happened I decided I really had to do a LOT more research. Looking back I now know that I had become dehydrated. You see, Ketosis often causes increased urination. When you shift to a ketogenic diet, your body tends to release more water as opposed to storing it. This diuretic effect is due in part to your glycogen stores being emptied. Although I do normally drink a lot of water, I can’t stress enough the importance of drinking a LOT of water and drinking more than you think you need.
Along with increased excretion of water, the minerals found in that water are lost at a higher rate. You can quickly become depleted of the key electrolytes that your body needs to function properly.
The most relevant electrolytes while following this way of eating are sodium, potassium and magnesium.
In the first few weeks on a keto diet, only about half of your weight loss is from body-fat. The other half is from water and sodium loss. Therefore, getting enough sodium is crucial.
Aim for an extra 1,000-2,000mg of sodium daily via;
pink Himalayan or Celtic Sea salt (not standard table salt)
Broth or bouillon (1-2 cups per day)
Shellfish (i.e. oysters, mussels, crab, etc.)
When you lose sodium on a keto diet, the salt depletion also causes a loss of potassium Although getting potassium from your diet is preferable, if you are very active or don’t consume enough potassium-rich food on a regular basis, it may make sense to take supplemental potassium on an as-needed basis.
Here is a list of some potassium rich keto-friendly foods;
Spinach (1 cup) – 840mg
Avocado (1/2 medium) - 500mg
Kale (1 cup) – 330mg
Mushrooms (1 cup) - 420mg
Taking up to 400 mg of magnesium in supplement form is safe for most people with healthy kidneys. Some forms of magnesium can cause digestive issues, however, especially when taken alone. For this reason, it’s best to take a magnesium supplement with a meal.
(Note: If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, or kidney disease, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any of these supplements.)
Because of the loss and imbalance of electrolytes, you may also experience something called the Keto flu.
What is the Keto Flu?
After a life full of ingesting large portions of carbs for energy, dropping carbs and moving into ketosis can often result in ketosis symptoms known collectively as the “keto flu.”
It’s not unheard of to feel light-headed, fatigued, or anemic when your body runs out of carb stores and begins turning to fat for its fuel source.
You might feel irritable, or short-tempered. Ketosis symptoms also include nausea, or stomach aches. These can be caused by your stomach reacting poorly to the increased amount of fat being ingested. Your body doesn’t burn through fats like it does carbs, so understandably, this more dense form of energy can cause apprehension in your gut.
You may experience one of more of the following symptoms:
One product a lot of people use to help with the Keto flu are exogenous ketones. I will be sharing a blog post soon about my thoughts on exogenous ketones and which ones I recommend. I ended up trying several different brands and was surprised at the differences.
If you are thinking of beginning a Ketogenic diet, or are suffering from any of the above mentioned symptoms, make sure you are conscious of your electrolytes and not just the macronutrients of the foods you are consuming. I definitely don’t want what happened to me happen to anyone else.
Another thing that happened was that by day 8 I was really struggling in my workouts. I had to cut way back on what I was doing and take more rest days. It is completely normal to feel this way as your body transitions to becoming a fat burner instead of a sugar burner.
Do I recommend the Ketogenic Diet?
Although I have a few more weeks left on my own Keto experiment, at this point I will say that there are things I prefer on Keto and there are things I prefer on my normal way of eating (portion fix). I do like the fact that while following Keto I rarely feel hungry and am able to do Intermittent fasting with no problems. But, I miss fruit, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and lots of other foods. I am concerned that I'm not getting all the micronutrients I need through food by eating a Ketogenic diet and I know I couldn't do this forever. I have serious concerns about following a strict Ketogenic diet for a long period of time. There are health conditions that can arise as a result. One of the first things people notice is hair loss. There are also issues that women can experience that men won't because of our hormones. I also still have concerns about the way some people interpret the diet and the foods some people eat which have been linked to serious health conditions. I do think it can be done in a healthy way. It just takes more education, information and support to make sure it's done properly.
Do I think Keto can benefit some people? Absolutely! Do I think everyone should do it. Nope! But, I do see how it appeals to some and I can see how it is beneficial for those who are pre-diabetic or diabetic as well as those fighting some forms of cancer. As with most diets, it won't appeal or be safe for everyone. Always check with your doctor, especially if you are considering a Ketogenic diet.
If you’d like more information on the Ketogenic diet or the portion fix diet (the way of eating I normally follow) send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.