Ketogenic diets are becoming more popular – especially in the MMA and weight-loss communities.
But what is ketosis and what does it do?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, is a dietary protocol consisting of a low amount of carbohydrate, with higher fat and moderate protein intake. Most people who aren’t athletes, eat between 15 & 60g of carbohydrate per day whilst on the ketogenic diet. Eating too many carbs will kick you out of a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’. You can check if you’re in ketosis by using sticks that you pee on.
The History of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet has been around for quite some time and it’s not another fad diet. Fasting has been used to treat health conditions since 500 BC (according to available records) and the ketogenic diet was established in the 1920s by physicians as a way to replicate the metabolism of fasting, in order to treat epilepsy in children.
Babies are born in ketosis and maintain ketosis when they are exclusively breast fed. Most humans were ‘on’ ketogenic diets for hundreds of thousands of years, before the onset of agriculture. It’s interesting to note as well, that humans are in the top 5 of all the animal kingdom in terms of their potential endurance, but nowhere in terms of strength and power. Another reason that fat might well be our preferred fuel – fat being the best fuel for ultra-endurnace but pretty terrible for fuelling explosive movements and exercises.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis your body start utilising ‘ketone bodies’ which are produced by the liver breaking down fatty acids in periods of either fasting, or low carbohydrate intake.
Your body will always use glucose, from carbohydrate-intake as an energy source for the brain and muscles working a higher intensity, when it is available in large enough quantities.
When blood glucose remains low, and can’t be ‘topped’ up from stores in the body (called glycogen), fatty acids are broken down to form acetyl-CoA, which in turn is used in the synthesis of ketone bodies.
Acetyl-CoA is normally used to produce energy from glucose, but can’t in the absence of glucose and oxaloacetate.
It is theorised that your brain could function ‘better’ in ketosis because of the fact that it can yield more energy per gram of ketones, then per gram of glucose.
What are the Ketones / Ketone Bodies
Acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone.
Acetone is formed via the ‘ decarboxylation’ of acetoacetate
What are the Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet?
- Reduced appetite due to steady (low) blood sugar levels
- Lower insulin levels & glucose levels in the blood mean massive reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Increased mental performance
- Research states that the ketogenic diet is easier to stick to than a low fat diet
- Mounting evidence that the ketogenic diet can fight & prevent most forms of cancer
- Mounting evidence & anecdotes that the ketogenic diet is good for mental health
- Enhanced wound healing (research available is mainly on rats)
- Reduced inflammation
What are the Side Effects of the Ketogenic Diet?
- Maximum power output decreases.
- Fatigue & brain fog in the first 2 weeks – keto flu
- Bad breath in the first 2 weeks
- Low blood sugar – requires monitoring in the first few weeks due to risk of fainting
The main issue for me is the reduced power output, and reduced exercise capacity at higher intensities.
This can be offset somewhat, in theory, by supplementing creatine and adhering to Targeted Ketosis.
What is Targeted Ketosis?
Targeted Ketosis may be the best way of offsetting the decrease in strength & power from a ketogenic diet.
Consume 50g of carbohydrate 30 minutes before exercise, try doing this twice a week to begin with.
On other training days, you can have your 50g of carbs before exercise, but the more often you do this, the longer you’ll be kicked out of ketosis.
Consume high GI carbs before your training, such as maltodextrin.
Tips For Starting a Ketogenic Diet
Start Off Reducing Carbs Slightly
It’s difficult to jump straight into ketosis, if you’ve researched and planned extensively, then you might be able to ignore this, however; most of us are not that organised.
Try keeping your normal 3 meals a day, but snacking exclusively on low-carb foods. Once you’ve found some snacks you like, then look to replace one meal at a time with a ketogenic-friendly, low carb meal.
Please don’t mix high fats with sugar however!
In the first week of cutting down on carbs and adopting a ketogenic diet, your body may excrete a lot of water and sodium. This is a good thing but you must make an effort to put pink Himalayan salt on food and in drinks, and drink lots of water and supplement magnesium. Keto flu normally lasts 3 to 5 days and makes you feel weak, dizzy and sniffly!
Make sure you drink plenty of water and get plenty of electrolytes in the first week. Consider investing in a magnesium supplement and some Himalayan salt.
General guideline is make sure you consume 2 tsps of pink salt a day –
throughout a keto diet
Check your Macros
Macronutrients – i.e. carbohydrates, fats and proteins (fibre is, strictly speaking a carb that doesn’t, normally, get broken down).
Lots of us are used to estimating or counting calories from normal, high carb foods, but doing the same with fats is very difficult, unless you are used to it. So weigh your foods and get exact calories when you are starting off.
People often run into problems on the ketogenic diet because they don’t drink enough water. Eating a ketogenic diet can make you less thirsty, or in my case, I tend to want hot drinks, rather than water. You may also be eating less food with a high water content such as fruit and therefore need to componsate with a greater water intake.
Ensure that you are getting enough sodium, potassium and magnesium. Using pink salt on your food and drinking coconut water are the easiest ways of ensuring you are not depleted.
Stevia is the go-to sweetener for many people on a ketogenic diet.
Eat Plenty of Vegetables
Don’t just stick to high fat foods, eat plenty of vegetables for the micronutrients and fibre.
Ketogenic Shopping List
Organic Grass Fed Meat
- Ground Beef
- Chicken breast
- Chicken drumsticks
- Bacon (not cured in sugar)
- Pork chops
- Full fat milk
- Full fat yoghurt
- Green beans
- Coconut oil
- Olive Oil
- Lard (not an oil but great for frying)
- Bone broth
- Peanut butter (check nothing added)
- Almond butter (check nothing added)
- MCT Oil
- Psyllium husk
- Cacao powder
Note – with MCT Oil and coconut oil, start of with low amounts or you might poo your pants.
Hummus and vegetable sticks
Ketogenic Diet Plan
Low carb smoothie
Blend ingredients shown below
- Almond milk (low carb version or home made)
- Handful of spinach
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- Sweetener – stevia
- Hemp protein powder – 30g
- Chia seeds
- Cacao powder – 1/2 tbsp
Or – bulletproof coffee – Coconut oil (& optional cream) in coffee.
Be careful not to burn your mouth on the oil.
Egg & Feta Salad with avocado
Tuna salad with mayonnaise
Chilli Chicken Thighs
- One crockery pot or tray
- Chicken thighs
- Olive oil
- Chilli powder
- Pink salt
Preheat oven and cook for approximately 20 minutes
For additional calories –
Athletes that require additional calories – coconut milk, but not the watered down stuff in cartons, is an easy source of calories. Look for tins which are around 50% coconut milk, as the 100% coconut milk has to be spooned out of the tin. The 50% stuff can be added to a blender easily, just thrown in some cacao powder, or neck it from the tin.
Fibre – Ensure you eat enough fibre on the keto diet, or you can get pretty backed up!