We Use This One: Keto Diet

It seems that everywhere I turn, I find somebody that is switching up their menu to chase after getting their body into the state of ketosis.  Let me start with a disclaimer: I am a bio-hacking student and hobbyist. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. Please validate your lifestyle choices with a properly trained professional.

First of all, what does ketosis mean, and what are ketones?

Ketosis is a state where your body is using fat as a primary energy source instead of sugar.  Over the generations of life, humans have developed multiple sources for deriving energy from our environment.  On one hand, the primary vehicle that people use for getting energy is sugar or carbohydrates that break down into sugars that are easy for the body to use.

The "backup" method our body uses to derive energy was likely the primary source of energy when food was more scarce.  Obtaining and carrying food needed to be efficient, so we turned to the most energy-rich foods to sustain us.  As your body breaks carbohydrates into sugar for energy, your liver breaks fats down in your body, creating ketones that your body can use for energy in a similar, but different process.

Keto Diets are so hot right now!

While keto diets are not new, it seems that everyone I know right now has a friend, brother, buddy, or gym-mate that is testing out a version of a keto diet.  Even my wife, Susie, has jumped on board and has been successfully maintaining a ketosis state for com8ng up on two years. 

Is it safe?  What do doctors say?

We asked our family doctor about a keto diet, expecting to be told it was another “gimmick” and have the whole thing invalidated immediately.  Instead, he was a wealth of knowledge, not just because he understands the mechanics, but because he has been maintaining a keto state himself for years.  He outlined how the keto diet is a benefit for people with epilepsy.  He also quoted the benefits of running a slight caloric deficit compared to the industry benchmarks to live a longer and healthier life.

So, where do I get started?

In a previous post, I had outlined a guideline that I have used for eating healthy since about 2005.  To change to a keto lifestyle, there are some distinct changes that need to happen but, in practice, it’s actually not that much of a difference.  So, today, I am updating the simplified guidelines that I will be following as a revision to my post from 2010: 

Nathan's REVISED Rules for Weight Management, Keto Style:

  1. Know the daily calorie shortage you need to create to lose weight at an appropriate rate and be realistic with your plan.

  2. Write it down. Keep track of what you eat in a manner that makes sense for you. Some people need the discipline of a regimented program such as Weight Watchers which takes all foods and breaks them down to a "points" value to keep track. I use MyFitnessPal.

  3. Eat protein at least two meals per day. If you are a gym rat consider protein essential three times a day. Protein doesn't have to be a big steak either ... Any complete proteins will do. Just keep portions to a reasonable size of 3-5 oz per serving. This is often described as the size of your hand, excluding the fingers. Don’t be afraid of more fatty cuts.

  4. Eat fruit. Have a serving of frest fruit every day. I try to stick to the common fruits that have the added benefit of some fibre, such as apples, pears, oranges, grapefruits and strawberries.

  5. Eat your vegetables, and lots of them. The great thing about vegetables is that most diets either allow you great big portions or don't limit them at all. When I'm in weight loss mode I try to eat 2/3 of every plate as vegetables. Also, stick to the more dark green and leafy vegetables as often as you can. (i.e. Spinach, broccoli, kale, etc). The best test for me when I feel hungry is to ask myself if I want some vegetables. If the answer is yes, go ahead, if the answer is no, then it's more of a craving than real hunger.

  6. Avoid carbohydrates, but if you must, choose whole grains and whole wheats over white carbs. You want to manage your blood sugar at a nice steady level instead of creating peaks and valleys throughout the day so try to make your carbohyrdrate choices a little more difficult for your body to digest.

  7. No Booze. Your liver produces keytones and insulin. When you put alcohol into your system, your liver puts everything else on hold until it has effectively eliminated the alcohol.

  8. Take a multivitamin every day.

  9. Consistency. if you know you need routine to be successful, then plan your days and weeks around a specific rotation (i.e. Same meals on every Monday, Tuesday, etc).

  10. Avoid circumstances that you cannot control. Going out to a restaurant for a business lunch or a birthday party is always difficult because you have no idea how the food is prepared. This might mean that you have to take a little break from your social calendar.

  11. DON’T Avoid fat. Cook with vegetable oil, have half an avocado a couple times each week as an energy source, and dress your cold salads with olive oil.

  12. Spice it up. Keep a full stock of your favourite spices and be creative. I like to take weight loss periods as times to experiment with other cultures and preparation styles. Of course, I love to cook!

  13. Weigh yourself every day, but be aware that your body will change weight with big fluctuations on a day to day basis. Water retention or shedding accounts for wide swings, as do hormones and your body's reaction to food that tends to be more difficult to digest than the usual crappy North American diet. I like to chart progress over time and create a line of best fit to see how many more days it should take to achieve my goal.

Anyone familiar with the prior version will notice that the major differences are swapping my attitude between fat and carbohydrates.

There is an entire industry supporting the Keto movement.  There are keto-buns made with almond flour, keto-pizza crusts made with cauliflower, and all sorts of quick grab keto-snacks that you can take with you on the go.   

I will provide an ongoing series of reviews as to which ones I like and which I don’t recommend for anyone.