Hello, my name is Melanie, and I’m a survivor of the Ketogenic Diet anti carb craze. Completely kidding, but I did learn a really important lesson when I did the ketogenic diet for four weeks this summer. Well, actually many lessons.
Lesson 1: Keto-flu is a real two week necessary hell that you need to go through before you make any progress, and that that hell will eventually end (pending you drink water, keep your sodium, magnesium, and potassium count up and eat like 85% of your macros as fat).
Lesson 2: I learned that the Ketogenic diet is not always the fountain of health, energy, and youth that people purport it to be.
Granted, after reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Volek and Phinney I do realize that this way of life is sustainable and ideal for many, especially those with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other issues, but after experiencing the diet for myself I also realize that it is not always ideal for those who are involved in high intensity athletics, like me, for example. I do CrossFit (what I like to call CrossFat among friends) three times a week, and it’s been murdering my body and soul. Even more than usual, which is saying something.
After doing some digging I came up with a blog post from one of my favorite bloggers, Robb Wolf, where he discusses this issue in great detail. The basic jist is that aerobic activity isn’t inhibited by the ketogenic diet because you’re not doing work that requires glycolytic energy, but when you’re doing high intensity work like CrossFit or Brazilian jiu-jitsu there is just no way that ketones and beta-oxidation of fats can replace good old fashioned carbs and glycogen in the muscles. He also describes a case of a professional Crossfit Games competitor who decided to try the ketogenic diet for three months but felt depressed and lethargic (much like I felt for the four weeks on the diet) and who’s PRs had suffered horribly form the diet change. Everything turned back around after she tailored her diet away from the ketogenic approach. The ketogenic diet might also be the reason for hormonal imbalance, which is a whole other topic that I’ll post a link for, but won’t go into for fear that I’ve already butchered enough bio for today.
That said, I saw quicker progress and fat loss than I ever had with any diet, which I can also attest to the fact that on the ketogenic diet you can’t mess up unless you want another two weeks of the miserable adaptation period. I’m experimenting with becoming as lean as possible while also having balanced hormones and nice muscle tone, which would be ensured by a fat metabolism. Muscles won’t be broken down through gluconeogenesis (when your body breaks down muscle proteins into carbs for energy) if your body doesn’t rely on carbs as energy. As a model/actress there’s great pressure to be slim, but I want to see if I can manage this life without sacrificing my health as so many of us seem to do. I always think of what my mother mentioned to me one day about how some models eat cotton balls just to feel full. I think that sort of thing is avoidable and this is my attempt at having my cake and eating it too, which is ironic to say the least….
I’ve switched over to a mixed paleo-esque diet of 25% carbs, 55% fat, and 20% protein, which has been great so far! I’m already feeling less like I’m swimming and my own personal mental fog swamp and more like the energetic human I’m accustomed to being 🙂
Here are some very interesting articles on the subject: