I went on the keto diet for 47 days and this is what happened
I feel like kind of an asshole writing about my experience with the Ketogenic diet, mostly because I have harped on about this thing for fucking ages (at least 7 weeks) and there's not much worse than hearing about someone's DIET of all things, so hey, here's me telling you now to leave this website, back out of the room slowly and pretend this post never existed. No feels will be caught. I also feel like an asshole because it seems like the keto diet is suddenly the new trend in dieting so it's like I'm jumping on the bandwagon and capitalising on it. Except I'm not really capitalising on it because we don't get paid to do Rally, so yeah.
So, the Ketogenic Diet. For those who aren't aware, here's the easiest way I can explain it. It's essentially a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, originally developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic, to treat epilepsy. Here is a small science lesson on how it all works (I hope to god I have got this right):
THE SCIENCE (I THINK):
When you eat something high in carbohydrates (sugars, starches and fibers), your body produces both Glucose and Insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so it will be chosen over any other energy source.
- Insulin processes the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.
When Glucose is being used by your body as its main form of energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. If you lower the intake of carbohydrates, the body is induced into a state known as Ketosis.
- Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, your liver breaks down your fats, and that process produces Ketones. The body can use Ketones as an energy source.
So, basically, the goal of a Keto diet, is to get your body into a state of Ketosis and burning Ketones (which are produced from breaking down fat) as its primary energy source. One way to do this would be to starve (not sustainable, obviously). The other way to do this is to reduce your carbohydrate intake enough to not produce enough Glucose for your body to use as it's main source of energy, forcing it to switch to using Ketones instead. Having optimal Ketone levels offers various health benefits, including weight loss, increased mental clarity, etc.
Before I get into this, I feel like I need to put a few disclaimers out there:
- Firstly, I am no expert on this Keto diet. I have read a bit online, but that's about the extent of it.
- Secondly, I followed the diet to the best of my ability (lol). I mean, I didn't have a kitchen scale for 70% of the time I was on the diet so I wasn't even weighing anything out. I was definitely not super strict on counting macros (I mean, I didn't even work out my macros), but I do know the general rules, and tried to stay at 20 grams of net carbs/day, and 100 grams protein (pretty sure I was going over on the protein most of the time). I basically relied heavily on these 'Visual Low-Carb Guides' to figure out what to eat and what to avoid.
- Thirdly, this is so stupid, and such an overshare, but I went off the contraceptive pill at the same time, so now I can't quite figure out how much of what I was feeling and what changed was related to the diet, and how much was related to the pill... Oh well, I fucked up, I can't do anything about it and there you are.
So, back to the beginning. Why did I even try to do this crazy diet in the first place? The whole reason I even decided to try out this diet in the first place is because a model on the books at my work (I work as a model booker) is on the diet and shred quite hard doing it. Her mum is one of the leading experts in this diet in New Zealand, and she sent through a document she'd written about it because I was curious. Then, my friend Nikki Crerar, told me she was trying out the diet and was feeling great and encouraged me to try it, and I trust her because she a.) studies nutrition, and b.) would never do anything to herself that was unhealthy or 'bad', and c.) has never put me wrong before.
So basically I read benefits of the diet were that you would get better skin, more energy, mental clarity and you would lose weight. I'm not gonna lie, I was keen for all of these things but bringing the body fat percentage down and getting the skin glowing were both the real motivators for me. (Vain, I know.)
So this was all happening around the 12th of May. I did a tonne of online research on the whole thing, and asked Nikki about five thousand questions, and then decided I would start in June, once I had moved house and done a bit more research. I made a loose plan to keep a diary of what I ate, how I felt, and my weight and measurements as a record of how it all went. Then I got a phone call from the PR girl at Nike, asking if I would participate in a photoshoot for a zine they were doing on the 21st of May and I freaked out about having my photo taken, flagged waiting 'til June and started the diet almost straight away, on the 14th of May, with a plate of scrambled eggs with cream and butter.
Nearly every day for 47 days I would wake up, pee on a Keto stick (like a pregnancy test, but to tell you if your body is producing Ketones or not), stand on the scales and measure my bust, waist and lower hip. The first few days I felt weird. I went back and read the diary today, it says on Day 2: "Is this diet giving me the shits?". (By Day 11, my diary entry read "It's been 4 days since I last pooped. Maybe I will never poop again.") I dropped a bit of water weight and I got a headache and felt tired and like I had the flu. It's a pretty common symptom of the diet so I just pushed through and never felt like that again. In fact, I didn't get sick the entire time I was on the diet and I don't know if that is because I have a super-human immunity system or what.
A normal day would consist of the following:
Long black with a splash of cream OR if I was eating at a café or something, I would get scrambled eggs, avocado, spinach and bacon or something like that (basically a normal breakfast with no toast). Or just straight nothing.
Usually it would be made from my dinner from the night before. Mostly I would just cook extra meat and then pack it for lunch as a salad with spinach/lettuce, maybe brussel sprouts or something, mayo, cucumber, maybe a soft boiled egg if I felt like it. Maybe parmesan cheese on top.
Sometimes a small handful of macadamia nuts, sometimes a piece of cheese wrapped in salami (lol).
For a while I got obsessed with eating keto 'fat bombs' (basically a bunch of oil, butter, cocoa, peanut butter etc, melted and frozen together so it looks like fudge. NOTE: Does NOT taste ANYTHING LIKE FUDGE).
Some sort of protein - for example, a small piece of steak, or 2 lamb chops, pan fried in butter. Then various vegetables with fat - cauliflower mash made with cream and butter, brussel sprouts roasted with bacon and butter, a small salad.
Sometimes when I would crave Chinese food I would go out, get roast pork takeaway, go home and cook veges and eat the two together.
And there you go. That was me. I didn't really cheat the entire time. I had three mandarins over the 47 days. I also had a plate of fried calamari at Non Solo Pizza that had like a flour coating on it, but other than that I basically kept it super low carb.
(Low carb takeaway hack: Renkon in Parnell (not sure if the other ones do it or not) does 'Gluten Free Salt & Pepper Chicken/Beef' - you can ask for it at the counter, it's not on the menu. Basically you can have that, and ask them to do extra vegetables in place of the rice.)
So, on to what everyone cares about - the results:
I lost around 3kg. I mean, for a good 10 days my flatmates scales were out of battery so I didn't weigh myself then, but from start to end, around 3kg lost. I think I could've lost more had I not been snacking when I wasn't hungry, and if I had actually measured out my food and counted my macros. I lost about 1/2 an inch in my waist and lower hip. I took before and after photos and the most difference was in my waist. My mom told me my face was a bit leaner and I know she isn't lying because she is the kind of person who will straight up tell me I look bad, if I do. I felt way more energetic, mostly slept better and bar a period of a week where I had the. worst. skin. of. my. life, my skin was relatively clear. I wasn't hungry but there would be days that I felt like I would murder for half a glass of orange juice, or a bowl of rice. One thing that sucked a lot was that I noticeably felt weaker at the gym. My arms and legs would give out sooner than they usually would and I would have sore muscles for days, so I didn't work out as much.
So, now to the the TL-DR part:
My general take-aways from the experience are:
- It would be a very hard diet to follow if you were vegetarian, or dairy-free. Too hard basket.
- If you're not going to bother looking up the 'rules' of the diet, or you're not invested enough to research into it, then don't do it. It's easy to f*ck up. For example, did you know that 100g of carrots have 9g net (digestible) carbs and that you need to avoid them on this diet? Carbs are everywhere. Google is your best mate.
- You become the most luggage friend to go out with. You're that guy at a restaurant.
- If you exercise/strength train a lot, expect to fall off somewhat, and not recover nearly as fast as you usually would.
- You need to know how to cook, and be prepared. It's the kind of shit where you can't just go out and get whatever for lunch.
- Eating whole, real foods all the time gets expensive. Especially if you're like me, and you want to buy 'nice cheese' to make up for the fact you can't eat a piece
In summary, I would give it an 8/10. Lots of people have asked me if it was hard. Yes, it's hard (I love pasta, I love rice, I love bread, I love juice) but at the same time, I have always loved rich, fatty foods (cream, butter, cheese, the skin on chicken, the fat on meat, you name it) so being able to eat those kinds of things was fantastic for me, personally.
I have never really tried any other diet so I can't compare it, but this one is good because you don't get hungry, and it seems to work. (I would, however, like to get my cholesterol checked because it seems pretty crazy to have consumed so much butter in two months and have that be okay). And I guess that's the crux of it. It works and you feel good, but it sucks that it works and you feel good, because it means that maybe you should stay on it...
(Sorry, that was kind of a shit ending but it has taken me so long to put this post together that I feel like I just have to stop.)