Just over a year ago, I wrote my second ever Newplex post titled The Ketogeneic Trial: A JOPO Story as, during that time, I had been experimenting with the high fat, low carb diet ketogenic diet. One year on, I have decided to give a more experienced reflection on the diet, having trialled it many times throughout 2017. I will address the positives, but also the negatives, and how I feel about the controversial high fat, low carb diet that has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Positives: Lots of fat
One of the things I found easy about the ketogenic diet was the smaller restriction on my food choices – especially meat selection. Since the ketogenic diet requires the human body to function on fat as its primary energy source instead of carbohydrates, selection of meat becomes more flexible.
Instead of turkey, chicken breast, and reduced fat beef mince, a ketogenic dieter has the option to eat full-fat beef mince (which obviously tastes a lot better). As well as meat selection, there’s cheese – and I love cheese. Whether its stilton, wensleydale, camembert, they all taste good in my opinion. Since cheese is high in fat, and contains moderate protein, it makes it the perfect option for someone doing the ketogenic diet.
Since insulin levels are kept at a steady level due to the low level of carbohydrate consumption, energy levels throughout the day on the ketogenic diet are great. Instead of feeling tired after eating which is something many people suffer from after an overconsumption of carbohydrates, I felt great when consuming a high fat, low carb meal, and didn’t suffer from mid-afternoon tiredness.
However, that’s not addressing the affect of the keto diet on my performance, which I will get into later.
Elimination of sugar
Dietary fat is not bad for you. Carbohydrates are not bad for you. Sugar is bad for you. While IIFYM (if it fits your macros) is a popular diet amongst the bodybuilding community because it allows people to fit things like pop tarts into their diet, it’s important to note that one should not avoid fat or carbohydrates, but should avoid sugar. A car will basically function on a full tank of crap fuel, but the car will function a lot better on good quality fuel.
Personally, sugar negatively affects my skin, it massively impacts my insulin levels in a negative way causing tiredness, and causes stomach inflammation for me when I eat it. While on the ketogenic diet, sugar consumption is kept to the absolute minimum, which meant that when I trialed keto my skin didn’t suffer, I didn’t feel tired at 2pm, and I never felt bloated after a meal.
Since the keto diet eliminates carbohydrate consumption, it almost encourages you to consume more vegetables – because what else are you going to have with your meat, right?
Because an individual on the ketogenic diet can’t get vitamins from fruit (fruit contains a significant amount of carbohydrates) and can’t get fibre from rice or beans (rice and beans both contain a significant amount of carbohydrates), the only foods they can get it from comes in the form of green vegetables. As someone who loves broccoli, it was very easy for me to eat vegetables with every meal whilst on the ketogenic diet. If you’re someone who isn’t overly fond of vegetables, then it may be beneficial to invest in high fibre protein bars.
For me, losing body fat on the ketogenic diet was quite easy (3kg fat loss). Since dietary fat has a greater satiety affect, and slower digestion rate compared to carbohydrates, it’s very easy to stay full and eat less food when dietary fat takes up 80% of your caloric intake.
Therefore, if you’re a slenderer individual who struggles to eat enough and wants to bulk up, then keto probably isn’t for you.
Negatives: NO CARBS
People love carbs. Whether its oats, bread, crisps, chocolate – people love to eat carbohydrates because they taste amazing. For example, I love oats. So, starting the ketogenic diet for me was very difficult because it meant I had to eliminate oats from my diet completely.
That’s not to say it was easy, and after I’d cut out carbs from my diet I’d make daily notes on my phone about the next time I was going to eat a carbohydrate meal, and the types of carbs I was going to eat. Then, when it finally came around to the point where I would eat carbohydrates, I’d binge all day. Ice cream, crackers, and bread would be consumed to the point I felt sick. That is not healthy at all, which is one of the reasons why I stopped doing keto.
Therefore, my advice would be, if you like carbs eat them. Keep calories under control (calories do matter), and eat them ideally post workout when glycogen stores are depleted, meaning carbohydrates are more likely to be stored as energy instead of adipose tissue.
If you’re someone who does super intense interval training, or CrossFit (high intensity and high-volume training), you need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient for glycolytic activity. Trying to train at maximum intensity on a low carbohydrate diet may even cause some hormonal problems.
In my experience, going to a social event while strictly adhering to the ketogenic diet is very difficult. For example, we celebrated my girlfriend’s birthday back in October, and while I tried my best to focus on making it the best day possible for her, another thing in the back of my mind was the fear of probably consuming carbohydrates at some point during the day. Which is not a healthy mindset at all.
Long story short, I ate pancakes, ordered Indian, drank wine, ate brownies, and woke up a few pounds lighter the next morning. Why? Because my body was so depleted of carbohydrates that I was likely able to store a lot of the food I ate as muscle glycogen. Truthfully, I felt amazing, and was a major turning point for me in terms of my eating habits.
You should never have to sacrifice a social event for the sake of your ‘diet’. Live life and enjoy food if you want to, just enjoy it in moderation. If your nan makes you cookies, have a god damn cookie! Just don’t eat all of them.
Conclusion and application
If you’re someone who struggles with staying full, try implementing a higher fat diet. Whether it’s going full keto or just lowering carbohydrate intake slightly and increasing dietary fat intake. If you love assorted cheeses, but aren’t that fussed about eating crackers, then go ahead and try the ketogenic diet.
Whether you’re following the ketogenic diet or not, vegetables are a great source of fibre and keep your belly nice and full, eliminating the chances of you overeating. So try and eat vegetables with every meal, just to increase nutrient intake, and decrease hunger.
However, my number one tip as a personal trainer and coach would be: don’t let food control you. Take control of the food you eat; if you enjoy something eat it, but in moderation. One tablespoon of ice cream once a day is going to be better than smashing a full tub in one sitting during one of your ‘cheat days’.
I hope this post helps, not only for people who are considering the ketogenic diet or have tried it, but for anyone with a fledgling interest interest in nutrition in general.