Updated: 1/15/22. It's been nearly 3 years since I've been on the Ketogenic diet and it still remains one of the best and more important decisions of my life. The following article covers a number of lessons I've learned from changing to a keto lifestyle.
To provide some context to this article, I'm a soon to be 40-year old who stays very active in sports and outdoor activities. I used to be one of those guys who just assumed I was naturally healthy because I was in shape and had a very low body max index (BMI). Oh how wrong I was. This article documents my journey with Ketogenic diet and the lessons I've learned so far from being on this truly transformative adventure. Please note this is not intended to be medical advice; but rather, a sharing of my own personal experiences with Keto.
What is Keto and Ketosis?
Before going further, allow me to briefly go over what the Ketogenic Diet is. The keto diet is a high-fat / low-carb meal plan that puts your body into a state of “ketosis”. When the body is in this state, it's effectively changing its
source of fuel from carbohydrates to fat. This often results in healthy and significant weight loss as the body is now burning fat for energy. When fat is burned, ketones are produced which are like little packets of super efficient energy. The science behind the body is fascinating, and seeing how it naturally responds to low carbs and high fats is nothing short of amazing. In addition to losing weight, you become far more clear-headed, cognitively aware and have much more energy. Studies and testimonials have even shown going Keto with intermittent fasting can cure (that's right, cure) a person with Type II Diabetes. It's literally one of those things that needs to be experienced to fully appreciated. There's a wealth of valuable Keto information out there but for brevity sake, I won't go into all of it.
If you'd like to learn more, I'd highly recommend you check out two reputable sources that've been instrumental in my Ketogenic Diet journey.
To be clear, Keto is not some diet-of-the-month trend. It doesn't require you to buy special products that only be bought from a specific company. Rather, the Ketogenic diet (or lifestyle) is about returning the body to what Dr. Ken Barry calls an “ancestrally appropriate diet” that involves a steady and balanced diet of meats and vegetables. Long ago before grains and carbs became globally commercialized, people typically ate meats and vegetables as opposed to a high carbohydrate and sugar diet. Eliminating or at the very least reducing your processed carb intake and sugars will dramatically change your life for the better (This article from Proper Good offers additional information on sugar intake while on keto). As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”. After experiencing the benefits of Ketosis, I appreciate just how literal this statement is.
For the last 3 months [updated: it's now been nearly 3 years], I've been on a relatively strict Keto diet allowing myself up to 20 grams of carbs/day. I admit to exceeding this limit a number of times, but I'd always remain in Keto which is ultimately what matters most. To test for Ketosis, I use urine strips and they've worked extremely well.
In short, I cut out all processed grains (rice, pasta, bread) and sugars (fruit juice, fruit, honey, etc). My meals typically involved bacon, eggs, lots of cheese, meats, fish and fair amount of salad and broccoli. Strange as it may sound to the non-Keto person, I would regularly melt a bowl of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, drench it in olive oil, add some bacon bits and crushed ground pepper, and enjoy an incredibly good-tasting snack.
Is Keto Natural?
Many people wonder if a state of ketosis is considered natural for the body. The answer is yes. For example, many religions around the world recognize the health benefits of fasting from food. When the body is in a fasted state, it naturally enters into a state of ketosis and begins to rely on fat as its primary source of energy. In fact, many doctors and nutritionists admit that our current American diet is far more unnatural or unbalanced given the recommended large quantities of carbs and sugars.
The Results of a 3-month Keto Diet
To be frank, I didn't do the Keto diet to lose weight. Instead, I did it to break a previous addiction to carbs. While many people can say they were addicted, mine was so bad I could eat 6 servings of pasta in one sitting and not feel full at all. That's the thing about carbs that I didn't realize until undergoing this lifestyle change. Carbs simply don't fill a person up. It's akin to a temporary filler. You know how they say you can't just eat on potato chip? That's because carbs offer just a temporary form of energy as opposed to the fullness and satiation offered by quality fats and proteins. Within the first week, I found myself with tremendous amounts of energy and feeling very clear headed. Later, I found out that the Keto diet is particularly good for cognitive health as you have more energy readily available for the brain.
Many of us are familiar with the food coma that comes right after a big meal. The reality is it's not the size of the meal that triggers the coma. It's the content. Foods high in carbs and sugars are what cause the desire to go to sleep after eating. For the last 3 months, I can say I haven't experienced the “food coma” once….and that's a miracle considering how it was a regular part of my life prior. One time, I ate 4 pieces of bacon and 3 eggs fifteen minutes before playing basketball. I didn't feel weighted down at all and actually had a very good game that day.
Anyone doing Keto will say it requires discipline. This is absolutely true. But at the same time there are products and services that have made my Keto journey just that much easier and tastier. Below are some keto products that I've found to be nothing short of a God-send.
- Keto Pasta
As someone who was once addicted to pasta, having a solid keto pasta alternative was important for me. More than just the taste, I simply missed the texture of eating pasta. I found that shiritake root noodles were the perfect substitute. Check out this full list of recommended keto pastas.
- Keto Meal Replacement – Garden of Life
I bought the chocolate version of this product and in my opinion, its easily one of the best Keto meal replacements out there. It tastes incredible and to be quite honest, makes for a delicious treat even outside of its Keto benefits. It's also incredibly convenient since it contains everything needed for a well-balanced Keto meal.
- Thrive Market
While this online store isn't exclusively Keto, it offers a wealth of excellent Keto-friendly options and at a fraction of the price. The yearly membership fee is $60 but you literally make that back just from the savings let alone the free gifts they send you every time you make a purchase of $50. My first gift was a bottle of extra virgin oil which is perfect for me.
- Keto Coffee Creamer
Black coffee is already keto friendly since it has no carbs or sugars. If you're on Keto, gone are the days of drinking sugar-loaded Frappuccinos from Starbucks. A wonderfully delicious alternative is using keto creamer that supplies plenty of healthy fat and good flavor without using sugar. My favorite coffee creamer is from Kiss My Keto. To be honest, I enjoyed the flavor of this keto creamer more than regular chocolate itself. For a full list of recommended Keto coffee creamers, check out our full guide.
Final Thoughts on Keto
I've learned through this Ketogenic diet that what you eat matters. I know those are just words to most. Some doctors say that 80% of your body is made up from the food you eat. The other 20% is a mix of exercise, environmental factors, and genetics. When you look at it simply, it makes perfect sense that your body is made up of what you put in it. Food is the fuel. If you put bad fuel into a car, it may run but won't work optimally or even properly.
When people ask me “what's the biggest difference you've experienced doing the Ketogenic diet”, I tell them the answer each time. I've learned that what I thought were signals for hunger, were actually just the body's addictive cravings for sugar. That was revelatory to me. My very definition of hunger has been changed or accurately, corrected. Now I'm able to more effectively interpret the signals my body is telling me. In other words, I now know what it means to be hungry and more importantly, full 🙂
Health isn't a state of just how you look. You can be heavy but healthy or trim but malnourished. The Keto diet has shown me that health is ultimately state of how you feel inside, and less how you look outside. The outside will naturally look healthy if the inside is healthy. And the reality is that most of us have just gotten used to feeling “unhealthy” because it's all we've ever known. I see myself being on the Keto diet for much longer than 3 months as I simply don't want to go back to feeling sluggish and for lack of a better word “foggy”. I'll keep updating this article as my journey progresses. Until then….stay happy and healthy!