For those of you who are unaware – The Ketogenic (aka “Keto”) Diet is a low-carb protocol that is gaining major popularity in the health and fitness industry. It is a diet that prioritizes nutritional fats and greatly limits carbohydrates.
The science behind the diet, boiled down into its simplest terms, is this:
When comprising your daily nutrition of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs, your body will enter a ketogenic state. Ketosis (re: “going Keto”) refers to when your liver burns through its final glycogen stores, and, seeing as you’re not replenishing it with more carbohydrates, turns its attention to producing “ketones” for energy. In layman’s terms – you quite literally become a fat burning machine.
However, fat loss is not the only benefit the Ketogenic Diet boasts. Improved cognitive function, better sleep, and more sustained energy throughout the day are just a few of the other reasons people are racing to jump back in to a low carb lifestyle.
So what exactly made me want to experiment with it?
I came to ketosis on a slightly different journey. Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (a hypothyroid, autoimmune condition) about 4 years ago, I felt as though I had already exhausted every anti-inflammatory protocol available. I had heard about Keto through the various fitness channels, but having done Atkins all throughout high school, I wasn’t exactly eager to hop on just another “low” to “no-carb” diet. I admit – without giving it much thought – I chalked Keto up to just another nutritional fad.
Then Mr. Joe Boffi (a co-owner of Catalyst SPORT in NYC) began his Keto experiment. Now, don’t tell him I said this, but Joe is a rare bird in the fitness industry – he is someone whose knowledge and opinion I can easily trust. So as he came skipping into the gym everyday, bragging about his increase of energy and lack of appetite or cravings, I began to see Keto, no longer as a simple fad-diet, but rather as a viable option worth exploring.
Through living with Hashimoto’s over the past few years, I have learned to stop making fat or weight loss a goal – it simply proves too uncontrollable or disappointing. Instead, my health and fitness goals are catered towards strength, keeping my body’s inflammatory responses low, and maintaining steady energy for daily workouts and life. So as I began to research in order to prep for ketosis, while all the articles boasted about the diet’s benefits for fat loss and weight management, my attention was more so caught by claims such as “improved cognitive function,” “better digestion,” and “less inflammation.”
Was it all too good to be true? There was only one way to find out.
I marked on my calendar 4 weeks out. I committed myself to ketosis for exactly 1 month – long enough to witness any of the possible results, yet short enough that I wouldn’t actually lose my mind in the process.
The first five days went smoothly enough – I think the sheer novelty of the new protocol kept me from answering to the sweet call of carbs. “You mean I can have butter with my bacon? Don’t mind if I do.”
It wasn’t until day 6 that I hit my wall. Everyone warned me that it would come around day 4 or 5, but when I sailed through those days, I admit I began to fancy myself an undefeatable, Keto-Warrior Princess. Needless to say, I was wrong.
The “Keto-Flu,” as all the blogs call it, is the moment when your body works through its final glycogen stores and begins processing ketones for energy. It can be quite the shocker for a system that’s become so reliant on glucose. Therefore, day 6 hit and the Keto-Flu took me down for nearly 16 hours.
The process was miserable. I felt sick, lightheaded, and nauseous. Truthfully, I consider myself lucky that the accompanying migraine forced me to sleep through most of it. I’m not telling you all of this to scare you away from trying ketosis, but I do feel the experience is worth noting. I’d hate for the Keto-Flu to take anyone by surprise.
When I emerged on day 7 – it was nothing short of a resurrection. I felt like a completely new person. No longer a novelty, ketosis had settled in and I could finally start to recognize the benefits everyone was talking about.
I started sleeping better and my energy sustained throughout the entire day. My mental clouds parted and suddenly I could think and focus clearer than I had in years. My digestion became so regimented that I honestly started to brag about it in public spaces, and suddenly, an odd grouping of Hashimoto side effects miraculously cleared up (including eczema, bloating, dry skin, etc.)
The final, unexpected win? The number on my scale adjusted in the right direction for the first time in 2 years.
Given all of this, I am now well beyond the originally proposed 4-week experiment, and I am still going strong on Keto. I have cycled on and off the diet a couple times now, and I will say it is much easier to drop back into ketosis now that my body understands the process a little better. I haven’t experienced “The Keto-Flu” since that initial introduction.
So. Now that all is said and done, my final thoughts on Keto are these – is it for everyone? No. Should you try it? Really, that decision is up to you. Am I glad that I gave it a go? Absolutely.
If you have further questions about the Ketogenic Diet, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Also, if you’re eager for more information – Joe (who I mentioned earlier in this article) wrote up his own experience with going Keto over at Catalyst SPORT’s page. I admit, he was much braver than I was when diving into more of the science behind the diet. Also, don’t be surprised if you recognize a few of the reviews/experiences in the article as he was kind enough to include my own 😉
Until next time…