You’ve heard the stories, you’ve seen the posts. But, still you’re not sure whether the Keto diet is safe, healthy or even effective. Well, grab yourself a bulletproof coffee, because today we’re giving you the inside scoop on the first 30 days of Keto.
Is Keto a Fad?
The Keto diet’s similarity to the once-ubiquitous Atkins diet often raises red flags. Many tried and failed that diet. In fact, the name became almost synonymous with yo-yo dieting as story after story emerged of dieters dropping weight before piling it all back on after reintroducing carbs.
For those who don’t know, both the Keto and Atkins diets severely restrict the intake of carbohydrates. The main difference comes from where you make up the calories. Atkins relies on protein, where Keto favours fat.
Unlike the Atkins diet, which was the brainchild of cardiologist Dr Robert Atkins, the Keto diet is hard to trace to an official source. As such, several variations exist. We’ll focus on the ‘standard’ Keto diet. That’s the one most people are familiar with, the one that’s been studied, and the one we have most experience with.
Calorie consumption on a Keto diet typically looks something like this:
- 70% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrate.
Tracking macronutrients is a must with Keto, and many find it easier to talk in terms of net carbs- i.e. total carbs minus fibre. The standard diet promotes around 15g net carbs per day.
Now, it’s important to understand that we’re not talking 15g of chocolate, here. As anyone who’s tried Keto will tell you, staying under that magical number is actually pretty tricky, even if you eat nothing but vegetables. As such, many choose to raise that value up to 30 or even 50 grams of net carbs per day.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we give you the skinny on how to do it right, let’s look at how the Keto diet works.
The Magic Word…. Ketosis
The Keto diet works by depleting your body’s glycogen stores. These are natural, sugar-based energy reserves. Think of glycogen as your body’s gas tank. Emptying the tank causes your body to switch to its reserve fuel, which is fat (or, more accurately, ketones). When burning ketones, your body is in a state known as ‘ketosis’. Most people will only ever experience this state during periods of prolonged starvation. But for Keto dieters, it’s the holy grail. We live and breath (quite literally) ketosis. The key is getting there without starving ourselves.
Well, yes and no.
This is actually one of the most polarizing topics in the dieting world. Is a calorie just a calorie? Does the source of energy make a difference? Can I lose weight by eating 1,500 calories of spaghetti?
Well, after years of experimenting with almost every diet ever invented, here’s our vote:
See, it’s not necessarily burning fat as your primary fuel source that leads to weight loss on Keto. Sure, there are benefits to being in ketosis (we’ll get to those in a minute), but the pounds drop as a result of the natural calorie deficit experienced.
Think about it- it’s pretty hard to eat 3,500 calories from healthy fat sources. That’s a lot of avocado and salmon. But, 3,500 calories of pizza, candy and soda? No problem.
Ah, I can hear the detractors now… Okay, so why can’t I just eat 1,500 calories of candy per day. I should lose weight, right?
Well, in theory, yes. You would lose as much weight eating 1,500 calories of candy as you would 1,500 calories of healthy fats. But (and this is a tricky concept to accept)…
More important is how the diet makes you feel. The food you use to fuel your body has a direct impact on how you feel, both physically and emotionally. Put simply, Grandma was right; you are what you eat.
Eat crap and you’ll feel crap. Eat clean and you’ll feel clean. (Or rather, eat clean and you’ll feel great, be full of energy, and manage to sustain your weight loss plan comfortably over a much longer period of time, leading to a permanent emotional and physical transformation. But, I suppose that’s not as catchy.)
Anyway, back to Keto. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of this diet.
- Weight loss: Let’s put it front and centre. If you can stick to the Keto diet for a few weeks, you’re going to lose weight. Many people notice drastic weight loss in just the first 10 days.
- Potential health benefits: The Keto diet originated as a treatment for epilepsy. It’s also been variously reported to increase testosterone in men and inhibit growth of various cancers- though we’d take these claims with a huge pinch of salt. For more information, check out this article.
- Evens you out: Cutting out carbs evens out your blood sugar and eliminates those peaks and spikes of insulin associated with disgusting a carb-heavy meal.
- Tricky first week: Keto can be difficult to stick to due to the lack of energy you’ll feel in the first week. There are also quite a few well-known side effects. (We’ll get to these in a minute.)
- Your source of fats is everything: Obviously, eating cream, butter and bacon all day is not good for you. (Where do we pick up our Nobel Prize?) So, don’t go into Keto for the wrong reasons. Aim to source your fats from oily fish, nuts, MCT oil, eggs, avocados and meat instead. We suspect your cholesterol will thank you in the long run!
- Unpredictable weight loss patterns: This one comes from personal experience. We’ve heard plenty of first-hand stories telling of significant weight loss in the first two weeks, but that wasn’t the case for us. Though the pounds did eventually start to fall (and fall quick), we experienced initial frustration. Our theory is that initial weight loss is dependant on how accustomed you are to eating and storing carbs. Those who consume a lot of carbs before starting the Keto diet may find that it takes longer to deplete glycogen stores- a necessary process before entering ketosis.
The elephant in the room.
Let’s preface this section of the blog with a warning: every diet has side effects. Keto is no exception. Look, there’s no easy way to lose weight. If there were, we’d all be skinny! Diets are hard and that’s the point. But, you know that already. That’s why you’re here.
So, let’s talk specifics. The Keto diet can (though doesn’t always) have some pretty unpleasant side-effects. First and foremost is the Keto Flu. This is a generic term for feeling like sh*t during the first week or two of the Keto diet. Some consider Keto Flu a myth.
It’s real and it sucks.
In fact, after dozens of juice cleanses (which are themselves pretty hardcore), we were surprised just how hard the first two weeks of Keto were. Expect to be physically and emotionally drained, bad tempered and feel an overall desire to sleep.
You may also experience Keto Breath. This occurs when ketones produced in the liver are excreted through your breath, producing a smell that’s similar to nail polish or rotted fruit. Don’t confuse it with general bad breath. Keto won’t make your breath smell like you haven’t brushed in days. But it will give you a funny taste in your mouth. (Don’t worry, it goes away pretty quickly.)
Finally, Keto can cause prolonged constipation followed by loose stools, and we experienced some pretty bad acne breakouts.
…There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
How To Do Keto Right
As with any diet, preparation is the key.
Don’t just jump in.
One of the biggest causes of quitting is a lack of emotional preparedness. So often, the early stages of a diet are harder than we think and, instead of drawing upon proven resources, we give up. We feel like sh*t for giving up, so we binge. We feel like sh*t for binging, so we crash diet, but we’re not prepared, so we quit and the cycle continues…
Instead, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and prepare for it physically and (more importantly) emotionally.
First, the simple stuff: Track all of your micronutrients, especially calories and fat percentage. Make sure not to drop below 65-70% calories from fat in a given day as this will knock you out of ketosis. After a few weeks you’ll get a feel for the values of your favorite foods, so you can start doing this in your head.
Like we said, the source of your fat is everything. Don’t confuse Keto with liposuction; this is not a guaranteed, instant, and pain-free weight loss hack. Yes, you can indulge in some bacon and heavy cream on occasion. But, don’t get into Keto for the wrong reasons. You need to fuel your body with healthy food. Period.
And finally, the most important tip…
This one’s not limited just to Keto. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times; the key to a successful weight loss diet is self-control + flexibility.
Pushing your body puts pressure on your mind. Be ready for it.
Know that you will have cravings, low moments, times when you want nothing more than to quit, and understand how you personally can overcome the negativity to stay on track.
Believe in yourself.
Don’t stress the little things. Keep your eye on the bigger picture and stay focussed.
Lean on your emotional support network.
And finally… DON’T GIVE UP THE FOOD YOU LOVE!
The sneakiest hack of all... and the one we specialize in. The easiest way to stay on a diet is not to be on a diet! (Or, at least not to feel like you’re on a diet.) So, instead of cutting out your favorite foods, why not check out our Keto Collection? A few easy-to-use kitchen tools are all that’s needed to modify your favorite dishes to be Keto-friendly.
Did someone say Zoodles with Alfredo Sauce?
Our products make it easier to stay in control and stay on your Keto diet. (Trust us, we use every single one.)
Have you tried the Keto diet? We’d love to know how you found it. Connect with us on social media and share your experiences.