I have tons of friends on keto right now, so I’m sure I’ll get a few eye rolls from friends. Rest assured, I do not judge, this is my own thoughts, experiences, and research of my OWN opinion. Anyone willing to make a change in their nutrition to better their life is HUGE and I applaud you because I know it’s not easy.
By now most of us have heard the term keto, right? I mean with the new year who didn’t try to go keto for a new years resolution? Have you seen Chipotles “new” keto options which have ALWAYS been on the menu? Keto has been around for DECADES! Keto has many benefits but it can also have some HUGE downsides for the long term.
If you haven’t heard, keto is essentially a low carb (50-20 grams a day depending on your activity level) diet. A low carb diet has been around for decades think Atkins! Essentially keto is supposed to put you in a ketosis state which is when your body doesn’t have enough glucose or glycogen to run so it starts breaking down fats for energy. Well, It’s not that simple and sounds good right? Um…anything that sounds good and easy might not always be the best thing for your body…SHOCKING I know!
Have I tried going keto? YES! During my first contest prep, I started out with a keto diet. It was easy to follow. No carbs, high fats, lots of protein, what’s hard about that? For somebody who has never really dieted much except having done weight watchers for fun a few times, keto was an easy way to ease into the whole meal prep, bikini competitor lifestyle, if it fits in your macros (IIFYM) life. I eliminated carbs, sugars, and any alcohol. So, of course, I lost weight. I went from eating donuts and drinking lots of wine to eating celery sticks, avocados, and shredded chicken. I saw a lot of progress for the first month. With making such big changes with being “keto” and exercising properly the weight just melted off my body! As I continued doing two a days at the gym and working my butt off, I started feeling the true effects of keto.
I was moody, hungry, irritable, and I could hardly put in the same amount of effort at the gym. I went from running marathons to just barely being able to survive 20 minutes on the stair climber. I did, however, survive my first prep and was really happy with my results even though my strength was low!
Fast forward to my 2nd prep in the springtime and about 8 weeks in I had ZERO results. I was keto, doing two a days just like before…but NOTHING happened. I FELT MISERABLE. I was taking naps at my desk during lunch breaks, I was suffering mentally with my progress in the gym, I was cramping up at night, and I just felt like CRAP. I ended up taking a break from prep not really sure what was going on with me mentally. Have I crashed and hit a wall? Is prep life even for me? Was I going through body dysmorphia? What was happening? I decided I was not in the mental state to compete and go through a prep so I took a few months off started this blog and regrouped. When I finally felt better, I started back up with another contest prep.
The same thing happened, about 6 weeks into this new prep (I was killing myself at the gym and eating clean keto) I had .4% body fat loss. WHAT? That’s it? Instead of getting upset I decided to educate myself and MAKE A CHANGE. I did more research on glucose and glycogen. I also looked online to see what other bikini competitors meal plans looked like as well as their fitness plans. Guess what? I found that not a single competitor was eliminating carbs from their meal plans. I also did extensive research on why your body NEEDS carbs (I mean it is its own food group). Muscles need glycogen and glucose to grow!!! You need muscles to burn fat at rest. It’s a no brainer. I added a small number of carbs to my nutritional plan pre & post workout and WOW!! SIX PACK CENTRAL! My body got stronger, faster, and leaner in a matter of weeks! Not to mention I felt better, I had more energy, I wasn’t taking naps at my desk, and I was HAPPY!
So let’s talk science & facts and why KETO didn’t work for me and many others out there.
- Obviously, our bodies need the vitamins and minerals that come from fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Cutting them out of your diet completely might really affect your health. You are missing out on vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
- Protein is great for you so what’s the issue consuming more of it? Well, we don’t need tons of protein. Eating more than enough protein puts stress on our kidneys, liver, and gallbladder. High fat, high protein diets have been linked to gall stones, kidney stones, osteoporosis (high protein diets make you urinate out more calcium), electrolyte imbalances, pancreatitis, and liver damage, and more!
- Often times people who are keto are still eating high-fat foods and not counting calories. Most people on keto love keto because they don’t feel like they are dieting. Not tracking your caloric intake can cause overeating. Celebrating losing weight without dieting or having a calorie restriction or exercising is not something to be proud of. When we eat a lot and constantly eat we are oxidizing our body and aging our bodies. Caloric restriction is linked to longevity and many other benefits. Clearly working out has it’s own set of benefits to fight aging. I’m not talking about EXTREME caloric restriction but it is good to know how much you are putting in your body.
- I see friends on keto eating tons of dairy and processed meats. Photos of cheeseburgers with a lettuce wraps, cheese sticks, melted cheese crusts, and cheesecakes, fake sugars, and all that jazz are all over the social media world. “Look at me, I’m keto, and I still eat bacon cheeseburgers!” Just because you can eat it on keto doesn’t mean you aren’t clogging your arteries or increasing your cholesterol levels. There is still a HUGE risk to eating these types of fatty foods. Check out my blog Fat Isn’t Making You Fat
- TRANS FAT is still TERRIBLE for you!
So what are my recommendations? Kick those fad diets to the curb, they aren’t sustainable anyway. So here is what I would recommend others to do to get rid of some of that belly fat FOR GOOD!
- Don’t overeat! Depending on your goals women should be around 1200-1800 calories and men should be around 1600-2200.
- To manage your insulin levels…exercise!
- Try to not eat processed grains or processed sugars (white bread, pasta, simple starches, juice, soda, candy). Limit your drinking
- Eat a well-balanced meal every few hours. Fat, proteins, and carbs will stabilize your insulin levels
- workout a few times a week (minimum 2 hours a week is recommended).
- Fast for about 12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast to help lower insulin, release a small number of ketones without following a high protein, high calorie, and high saturated fat diet.
- Be intentional with your carbs. Eat your carbs before and or after a workout when your body needs them the most.
Truthfully, all it takes is to eat clean healthy foods! This includes fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and some carbs. This IS sustainable and the foods are delicious and healthy for your body.
Once I created a meal plan that was balanced, eliminated high fats, dairy, and processed foods not only did my gut feel better but I stopped having to take naps at my desk, I was less moody, I FELT SATISFIED and had limited cravings, and I gained SO MUCH STRENGTH at the gym. I’m now benching 120 lbs and my Lat pulldown PR so far is 130 lbs.! I think all of my friends and family can agree that I’m in a much better state of mind these days.
Is it possible to lose weight on keto? YES! Is it safe, maybe, but being in such a low glucose and glycogen state puts your body is a state of emergency. Could you withstand it for a while? I’m sure, but eventually, something has to give. Are you willing to take that risk?