Summer was fun. You spend countless hours with friends, nights at the beach, days in the pool, and sadly, it is all coming to an end. The time has come to return to the hallways of education, and shortly, school will be back in session. You don’t want to wear the pleasures of summer all over your body, as the deluge of tacos, burgers, hot dogs, and perhaps a little alcohol indulgence, along with more than a few missed trips to the gym, has left you looking a bit worse than your formerly stellar self. Never fear. The ketogenic diet is here to save the day, giving you the ability to shake some pounds of fat quickly and springboard your way back into training hard, sound nutritional practices, and overall health. Ready to dive in?
During a ketogenic, or keto, diet, you are essentially tricking your body into using fat from your body (and diet) for the daily energy it needs to function and train. Right now, there are sugars in your body from all of the carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis. Those carbs are burned for fuel as you walk, lift, and sleep. Stored body fat is pretty much left alone. Two days after you have consumed carbohydrates last, your body will enter a state of ketosis, in which your body is now using fat (from the foods you eat or stored in your body) as a source of energy. It will essentially STOP searching for carbs, and will use fat for energy. You’ll eat a lot of fat and proteins each day, and a very small amount of carbohydrates. The result will be a leaner, lighter you, in a very short period of time.
It’s time to go shopping! Plan on getting 2/3 of your calories from fat, 1/4 of your calories from protein, and the remaining 20 to 35 grams of carbohydrate per day to round out the calories. Protein foods like chicken, beef, bacon, turkey, whey, fish and eggs are all welcome, even if they’re higher on the fat scale. Oils for cooking, butter, cheese – it’s all allowed as well! The limitation comes when you start to miss the breads, pasta, rice, and potatoes you were once allowed to enjoy. Now it’s time to stick with celery, lettuce, and other net zero carbs. You can still enjoy a handful of dark chocolate chips from time to time to curb cravings, but keep it under 35 grams per day total.
After two days of suffering, your energy levels will start to return. You’ll initially drop a few pounds of water and carb bloat. Then your body will enter ketosis and you’ll suddenly enter a slow weight decline over the next 2 to 3 weeks as your body drops 1/3 to ½ pounds, often per day. Keep the meals small and frequent, and don’t cheat with high carb meals or snacks – at all! In order to enter and remain in keto, you do need to keep your daily carb intake below 50, with 35 being a safer target area.
Artificial sweeteners (aside from Stevia) are a point of contention amongst Keo dieters. Some use diet soda and aspartame products on a daily basis and decide it’s a great way to spurn their cravings. Others believe the sweet taste will fool the liver into thinking carbs are present, which will limit the fat burning process. You’re always better avoiding artificial sweeteners altogether, but it is a personal choice.
Your training should remain constant and steady. Don’t use your reduced carbohydrate intake as an excuse for training with a bit less intensity than you are used to using. Your body will still enjoy high energy levels, as you are choosing high quality macronutrient foods for your protein, fat, and limited carbohydrate consumption. Consume plenty of water and consider the use of coconut oil or MCT oil to maximize your ketogenic state for fat burning potential.
You probably aren’t going to want to actually live on a keto diet. There are higher protein, lower carbohydrate meal systems you can consider, but you will want to return to standard dieting and nutritional practices after a while. Gradually wean yourself off of the ketogenic diet by adding yogurt, bananas, applesauce, and other healthy food options to your menu. Keep most of the fat loss achievements by not diving back in to stuffed crust pizza and milkshakes. Use ketogenic dieting as an infrequent tool to overhaul your body when needed, then place this tool in a drawer to use any time in the future. Good luck!