Do you want to lose weight eating (most) of the food you love? Well you can believe it or not. Sounds like your typical Danoz advertisement right? Yeah I don't like sounding like this but the Ketogenic Lifestyle is finally something that is working for me. There are some pitfalls however, and the worst one for me is no more bread, but it gets more specific than that.
Lets begin with the disclaimer, never undertake a fitness or diet change without first consulting professionals such as your Doctor or a qualified Dietician/Nutritionist (not a Naturopath). Any information provided on this website is entirely opinion based and may not work, or in fact be safe for you to undertake. In short, if you follow information from here it is at your own risk and if you get sick or die I am not liable for it.
Ok, Ketosis you may have heard of it, don't know much about it. Depending on how you treat medical information its best to begin with the Wikipedia page on Ketosis, Ketogenics and the Low Carbohydrate Diet then from there research the multitude of websites for further information. In a nutshell, a ketogenic diet favours protein and fat over carbohydrate (by a considerable margin) as a food source. This requires a very strict, but easily achievable diet change (including exercise, weights specifically).
What can't I eat?
Well thats pretty simple, any food that is "easy energy" and by that I mean starches, sugars, and all foods that contain them. For instance, potatoes are bad, they are starchy and that starch is easily turned into energy which the body uses. Similarly sugars, and fruits rich in sugars, in moderation are fine and important, however excessive fruit or adding a spoon of sugar to your food and drinks is bad news. Rice as well is not a good idea, so many things are carbohydrate rich and this website is not the place to describe them all.
What can I eat then?
Well, lets start with bacon and eggs fried in butter (in moderation for the salt) which has almost no carbohydrates at all, but heaps of protein, and as such is a complex energy source which keeps your body going longer. Beef, pork, meats, cheeses, non-starchy vegetables, fats, etc. So basically you want to focus on protein rich, fiber rich, and fat rich foods to loose weight. WHAT? Yep you heard it. As long as you stay away from carbohydrates and keep them to an absolute minimum your body will use fat and protein as an energy source long term which will cause your body to consume fat stores.
Ok so whats the point?
Well so many diets are hard to follow because the food sucks, plain and simple, yet with a basic understanding of how the body works certain foods in moderation will force the body to consume its fat stores and provide a tasty long term healthy lifestyle.
So go see your Doctor, go visit a Nutritionist, weigh up the pro's and con's of everything and decide for yourself, however the majority of recipes from here on out on this website will be "Ketogenic Friendly"
The Science Explained:
Ok, so the science of ketosis is pretty complicated, there must be an easier way. Well, I will do my best to translate the science to something easier to understand. I welcome those with better knowledge to correct any mistakes in my interpretation. This isn't meant to be a total explanation, just a quick beginners introduction which skips many of the actual processes.
Calories, Kilojoules and Insulin:
Calories and Kilojoules are the currency, and Insulin is the banker. In short, you consume food for energy, that energy is tallied in KiloCalories (shortened to Calories) and Kilojoules, as we consume that food/energy it is the insulin that delivers that energy to the cells in the body from the blood. Insulin also regulates the blood sugar levels, excess sugar in the blood is stored as fat. It is a long way of saying that if you eat too much food you put on weight. Conversely, when your body is low in glucose, Insulin takes the role of converting fat stores into glucose for your body to use as energy, hence why I call its role as the banker, insulin both gives and takes. If you overload the banker, or the banker takes too many holidays you wind up with excess currency floating around which is what we call Diabetes.
So what is Diabetes?
Well there are two types of Diabetes, Type 1 is where your body doesn't produce enough insulin, and as such you need to inject insulin to compensate, and then there is Type 2, which is where your body becomes insulin resistant and you need to control your diet or in worse cases, like Type 1 supplement your body with insulin. If you have Diabetes you should be taking dietary advice from your doctor or another professional with diabetes knowledge. People with diabetes have issues with regulating their blood sugar and as a result many other health issues become apparent, least of all weight management problems.
Ok, so now what?
The point of Ketogenics is to force your body to burn its fat stores (during the diet phase) and regulate your fat stores during the "rest of your life" or maintenance phase. Ketogenics shouldn't be viewed exclusively as a "diet" per-se, but also as a dietary lifestyle. Ketogenics rarely overloads the pancreas and interferes with insulin in the same way that carbohydrates do. Proteins and fats deliver energy to the body slowly and regularly which doesn't overload the banker, so the banker (insulin) can keep up and do its job efficiently and effectively. Carbohydrates are like massive bags of cash being dropped off at your banks door, the banker can get upset and annoyed and stop doing his job. I should stress though, Ketogenics will not cure Type 2 diabetes, but it will help considerably in managing your weight before it does become a problem.
Why society is obese & Carbohydrates:
Society is obese due to the massive increase in processed foods, everyone knows it, even you. But few people are willing to sacrifice the convenience of processed foods to loose weight. Well then you will continue to be obese and you should stock up on life insurance. The "big killer" in our diets is Carbohydrates, this is quick and easy energy for the body and is one of the leading reasons behind our societies weight problems.
The Carbohydrate Train & Feeling Hungry:
Think of Carbohydrates as similar to the Japanese Bullet Train, it's super fast and carries little, think of proteins and fats like a slow but long freight train, and finally think of your body as the station. Now, when you eat carbs the energy is delivered to your blood and body very quickly, so much so that it begins in your mouth as you are chewing, now this is a fast train that reaches the station with little in it, and when it leaves (soon after eating) there is no train at the station and your body is left feeling hungry. Conversely, with a long slow freight train, the train stays at the station for a long time, and thus you don't feel hungry. Reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your protein intake will help you to feel fuller for longer and cause you to reduce portion sizes. Carbs make you eat regularly and eat larger meals.
In a nutshell:
Ok, so if we reduce carbs, increase proteins we feel fuller longer, we eat less, and our bodies use the energy more efficiently which manages weight more effectively and reduces the chances of weight related illnesses.
The Ketogenic Lifestyle
Losing Weight (the diet phase):
Losing weight is very simple, expend more energy (Calories/Kilojoules) than you consume. The hard part is doing exactly that while not feeling hungry (starving yourself) and safely (not causing your body to shut down).
First and foremost, start an exercise program. There is no if's, but's, or maybe's on this one ... do it. Get out and walk, get on the bike, go to the gym. Losing weight without exercise requires such a drastic diet change that its unlikely to ever work long term.
What you need during the diet phase:
- The Internet or a good food book to work out your calorie/kilojoule intake from the foods you eat.
- A computer or pen and paper (diary) to count calories/kilojoules.
- A scale or tape measure to measure your performance.
- Ketostix made by Bayer to identify if your body is in Ketogenesis (chemists sell them, about $12 per 50 sticks)
The hardest part of Ketogenics is giving up carbs. Carbs are addictive, they taste great and are hard to give up. Carbs are also easy, they are in most fast foods, processed foods and tasty snacks. So step 1 is to identify and eliminate carb heavy food sources, and the only way to do this is by reading the nutrition labels on foods, and learning how to look up food ingredients on the internet or through a book. Do this before you eat it don't bother doing it afterwards.
You get told this a lot, but with Ketogenics it is essential, if you have to force yourself to drink water, you should aim for the magical 2L a day mark but every body is different, either way its very hard to overdose on water unless you are drinking 10L plus a day, but its much easier not to drink enough. Also, the amount you are urinating is a good indication of weight loss, if you aren't urinating you are retaining water (also an indication that insulin is in storage mode) so drinking heaps of water gets you going to the toilet more, and also flushes impurities from the blood stream as insulin releases energy from fat stores. Excess sodium also causes water retention, and is flushed quicker with more water, one aspect of a ketogenic diet is that sodium levels can be elevated, so water is going to have to be your biggest friend.
Quick and dirty carb removal:
Stop eating bread, white, wholemeal, multigrains ... it doesn't matter just stop eating it. The same goes for food with sugar, and sugar itself. Throw rice in there, as well as potatoes. Jump on the internet and learn about fiber, starch and sugars. You essentially need to look at your current eating regime and identify the foods you are currently eating that are high in carbohydrates, and throw them all away. Learn to cook your meals and stop eating take away, make the time.
Entering Ketogenics Quickly:
Diet shakes are the quickest way to do this, they taste awful, but are better than things like the Atkins Induction Mode and similar "quick keto" methods as they are dietary supplemented and balanced. The diet shakes also introduce your body to smaller portions quicker than eating mountains of veges. Optifast, Optislim, any VLCD (very low calorie diet) shake will do the job, choose the one that tastes best to you. The principal behind these shakes is to reduce your bodies calorie intake rapidly with additives to keep you full forcing your body to enter ketogenesis, the first few days are spent expelling water so you will see monumental weight losses, which will taper in the second to third week when you begin to lose fat stores. Either way, once a day check with a Ketostick to make sure your body is doing its job.
Keto Flu (carb withdrawl):
One bad side effect of eliminating carbs is carb withdrawl, it is a feeling of lethargy, sometimes headaches and irritability and problems sleeping, as well as dehydration. This is something you fight through like any withdrawl, put up with it and keep going it will pass in a few days, at most a week usually depending on how carb rich your diet was previously.
Its hard to see any gains until you begin to lose big numbers, and on top of that your eyes lie to you, you see yourself so regularly changes are hard to notice. So get a scale and weigh yourself daily and at the same time each day. I personally weigh myself in the mornings as soon as I have woken up and after I have been to the toilet. It is also essential to keep track of your numbers, this will help you to see your weight loss to continue your motivation, and also to identify when you have potentially made a mistake and put on a bit of weight (wrong food for example).
Keep a food diary:
Personally, I use the "My Fitness Pal" website as my food and weight diary, it has many foods in Australia from Woolworths and Coles, so it is pretty good at finding most mainstream things. There is also an app for iPhone, iPad, and Android which you can use on the go, so keep it handy. If you don't have access to the internet, or these sorts of devices, then a physical diary is the way to go, but be warned it is much harder to do right.
Basal Metablic Rate, this is your "calorie goal" to maintain your weight, going over is to put on weight, and going under is to lose weight. There are many calculators on the internet so find one, be honest and work it out. Remember this is an estimation only, so work out your BMR and then work out a weight loss goal in calories or kilojoules and keep your diary to ensure you stay on track.
When to eat what?
Now, western society has chosen to have small (or non-existent) breakfasts, light lunches, and heavy dinners. The problem with this is it starves your body when you are most active, and overloads your body when you are sleeping. One of the hardest things to do is change your meal sizes and types around that may not be socially acceptable. Shift your lunches to breakfast, your dinners to lunch, and breakfasts to dinner, even better still is to swap your breakfast for dinner leaving lunch where it is. If you can do this, you will be fueling your body for when it needs it most, and ensuring that as you sleep your body is burning excess energy from the day leaving you hungry in the morning ready to repeat the whole process each day.
One of the biggest things with any diet/lifestyle change is learning about food and how it works in relation to your body. It takes a lot of effort to research and understand how foods are processed by your body, especially fiber, carbohydrates and proteins/fats. However to get the most out of any diet, you need to stick to foods with the lowest carbohydrate contents. It would be an entire other page on this site to go into this in any detail, so put the effort into learning about it yourself.
Carbohydrates and Fiber:
Fiber is carbohydrate, however there is soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber you want in a ketogenic diet is insoluble fiber, this will help because, insoluble fiber is essential for a healthy digestive tract, it "cleans the pipes" as it were, also a food high in carbs, may also be high in insoluble fiber and this is a good thing, insoluble fiber content shouldn't be tallied in your fiber calculations for instance if your food has 10g of carbohydrates, and 9g of that carbohydrate is insoluble fiber, then your food is technically a 1g carbohydrate content. So don't just look at the carbohydrate level, if possible determine the insoluble fiber content and calculate that as well, this is not easy though, use the internet and its multitude of nutrition sources to guide you (see the above paragraph about learning food).
Balance your diet:
Some Ketogenics programs harp on about only eating red meat, fats and cheeses. This is not healthy at all, every meal with meat should have an equal or higher weight of low carb vegies to go with it. Without veges you will reduce your essential vitamin and mineral uptake, and it will cause your bloods to be high in cholesterol (both good and bad) and long term there could be the potential for health problems, so be aware of this. Don't go thinking that bacon and eggs for breakfast, and a steak with a cream sauce and a side of bacon is healthy. Yes, its ketogenic, but dangerous. Find what low carb vegetables you love and learn to cook with them and include some in every meal.
Summary of the diet phase:
Eliminate carbs, eat more proteins and fats, and drink tons of water and get out and exercise (don't exert yourself yet, just get active). Your goal should be a dietary intake of approximately 5% carbohydrates, 60% protein and 35% fat. Websites like My Fitness Pal help you to watch and achieve these goals.
Goal Weight Achieved:
So you reached your goal weight, now what? Well, now you eat a little more to maintain your weight. You can snack a little more but continue counting your calories until you have reached a stable weight program to suit your active lifestyle and your calorie/kilojoule intake. You can also introduce slightly starchier vegetables (carrots etc), however stay away from highly starchy and sugary foods like breads, sugar itself, and vegetable high in sucrose/fructose/etc.
Now, if you are an athlete, or a regular exerciser, then you will need to increase your carb intake to fuel your body for your workouts, and this begins the balancing act. When you aren't exercising you will potentially suffer carb withdrawl all over again if your carb intake exceeds your exercise energy levels. There are modified Ketogenic programs for athletes and you should investigate these if you are at a competitive level.
Since your body is in keto, if you loose too much weight your body will cannibalise its muscle, insulin doesn't just convert fat into energy, it also converts protein, including your muscle. So to combat this, keep a regular weights program going to ensure your body doesn't deplete its muscle.
Stay on the program:
Don't think that now you have lost the weight you can go back to eating all the carb rich foods you love, you can't, you will pack the weight back on and you will begin yo yo dieting where you lose it, gain it and cycle through that path of destruction, Ketogenics isn't a diet, it is a lifestyle, if you can maintain that lifestyle you will keep the weight off.
This is simply my best interpretation of the ketogenics lifestyle, before using any of the information here, please visit your doctor. Also continue to get regular check-ups from your GP including blood tests to monitor your cholesterol, there is ongoing research into nutrition all the time and while some diets are great, others are bad. The goal is a healthy balance of all food types to ensure your body gets the complete nutrition package, however in the same way a vegetarian lifestyle can supplement their diet with foods rich in other sources, so can a ketogenic lifestyle which is heavy in protein.
Always pay attention to your body, if you get sick there is a problem and you need to sort it out, on any diet or lifestyle change.