Are you tired of eating tiny portions, counting calories and eating bland food every time you try and lose weight? How would you like to hear about a diet where you can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, Boojum for lunch and steak for dinner? Absurd right? “It doesn’t exist,” you might exclaim. Wrong. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the ketogenic diet.
Often known as the “high-fat diet” or the “Atkins diet”, the Ketogenic diet is based entirely around eating very high quantities of fat and almost no carbohydrates or sugars, getting its name from the metabolic state your body enters while producing ketones, known as ketosis. For those who are interested in calculating macronutrient ratios, the average diet has about 30% fats, 25% proteins and 45% carbohydrates. A Ketogenic diet has about 70% fats, 25% proteins and 5% carbohydrates. Your body normally burns carbohydrates and sugars and converts them into glucose and insulin for energy; however, once you starve your body of these energy sources it starts looking for others and it finds fats. The body begins converting fats into things called ketones in your liver, which it burns for energy. In deeper ketosis the body needs to produce more ketones for energy and so it needs more fats and will end up burning more fats off your body. Imagine it as something like a steam train: the more coal you put on the fire, the stronger the fire burns and the faster the train goes.
“Your body normally burns carbohydrates and sugars and converts them into glucose and insulin for energy; however, once you starve your body of these energy sources it starts looking for others and it finds fats.”
For those not familiar with macronutrients, you’ll have to become familiar with counting how many grams of carbohydrate you eat a day. Whilst on average about 5% of your macronutrients should be carbohydrates, everyone’s body reacts differently to ketosis and has a different resistance to carbohydrates. If you’re trying this diet out for the first time, I recommend sticking to within 10-15g of net carbohydrates per day, as eating too many will knock you out of ketosis and your body will begin storing all that fat you’re eating instead of burning it off.
Although some people are able to maintain ketosis while eating up to 50g of carbohydrates a day, I find that between 20g and 25g a good limit. Of course, the longer you maintain the diet, the greater resistance you build up. Within the first two weeks, by exercising 2-4 times a week, eating high amounts of fat and under 10g of carbohydrates a day, I have lost 11-15 pounds (although a woman will typically lose only 8-10 pounds). The first two weeks of keto are the hardest, but also the most rewarding; after the first two weeks you can start experimenting with increasing your net carbohydrate intake to 20g and higher.
What are “net carbohydrates”? Put simply, they’re the total carbohydrates, minus the total fibre. Nuts are a key element of the ketogenic diet and often people are deterred by the high carbohydrate content in them; however, they also have a high fibre content and their protein and fats are key.
“If you’re struggling to eat a lot of fat the best advice I can give you is to cook it into your food. Cook in olive oil, melt the butter onto your vegetables and stir-fry your meat in cream cheese[…]”
Now we’re into the good stuff: what can we eat? A quick list is eggs, bacon, steak, nuts (stick to brazil nuts, walnuts and redskin peanuts), pretty much any green vegetable and cheese (particularly cream cheese); any sort of high-fat low-carb food is good. Just make sure you don’t eat too many carbohydrates and you eat a lot of fat and you’ll be golden. In fact the more fat you eat, the better! A nice tip is to lash everything you cook or eat in olive oil or butter, as both are full of fat and thus amazing for this diet.
The above is how your plate should look for lunch and dinner and if you really want to get deep into ketosis then add an extra portion of fat onto that plate. A problem a lot of people have on this diet is they end up eating a lot of salads and vegetables and not a lot of meat and fat – don’t do this, because you’ll end up in a very shallow state of ketosis and won’t burn much fat. For instance, on a typical day I would have bacon and eggs for breakfast. For lunch, a pork chop, green salad, maybe with some feta cheese and 50-100g of redskin peanuts. Dinner normally consists of two pork chops, broccoli or asparagus covered in butter, half a tub of cream cheese and an avocado.
If you’re struggling to eat a lot of fat the best advice I can give you is to cook it into your food. Cook in olive oil, melt the butter onto your vegetables and stir-fry your meat in cream cheese (it makes a delicious sauce with some chicken and chorizo). If you’re in town and looking for a treat, Boojum actually provides a reasonably ketogenic friendly meal. Get a burrito bowl with just double pork/chicken/beef/ chorizo, some salsa, lots of sour cream and cheese, guacamole, jalapenos and lettuce – a delicious ketogenic friendly meal from your favourite burrito bar!
If in doubt at all about the diet, feel free to consult the internet. The site www.ruled.me is a great resource and a lot of bodybuilding boards have plenty of ketogenic discussion if you have any questions. If you think something is suspect just see if any other sites agree with it.
Although I never found it necessary, there’s also a keto macronutrient calculator and diet planner app available; if you enjoy myfitnesspal then you’ll like it. If you’re unsure how to determine whether or not you are in ketosis, use a urine stick and, based on how dark the strip at the top goes, you can judge how deep into ketosis you are.
Choose fat, choose meat, choose guacamole even though it’s extra, choose melted cheese, choose butter dripping from your vegetables. Don’t choose a chicken salad.