I had begun to hear this question from several clients around the gym. Initially, I thought “great, here’s another stupid, trendy, diet that’s going to cause mass confusion and help people drop weight instantly but not permanently and it’ll phase out quickly again. UGH.” However, in an effort to be a thorough trainer that’s here to assist my clients, not just preach at them, I dug a little deeper and did some more research to see how I really felt. Research led to curiosity and curiosity led to a need to try it for myself. So here is a review of the Keto diet from the perspective of a certified personal trainer.
For those of you just joining the Keto convo, Keto is short for “ketosis”, which is a state that human body enters after removing carbs and glycogen (another word we use for “stored up” carbs). When this happens the body switches from burning carbs as fuel to burning fat as fuel. It means that your diet is void of all sugar and almost all carbs, and you increase your fat intake, so that your body becomes a fat burning machine. If you can get past the part that you have to give up sugar, by knowing that cheese and bacon are still included in this diet, it sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?
Well, I had a major issue with this diet initially. I mean, didn’t we just debunk the Atkins diet 10 years ago? Let’s look at things scientifically: the brain runs on glucose and the body is powered by carbs. That is just how the human body is wired. Fat is fat, and it cannot warrant the same results that carbs can, so I just didn’t see how in the world this would work. Not only that, but we need exercise in order to lose weight and we need carbs in order to exercise. From that fact alone, we can deduce that you actually need carbs to burn fat. And if none of that convinces you, let’s just go back to this simple fact. GOD MADE CARBS FOR A REASON. He also created balance for a reason, and cutting carbs and upping fats is just not balanced.
But then I came across articles and interviews of professional athletes and trainers who had not only “done” the Keto diet, but had been doing it for 3 and 4 years at a time. HOW???? Nevertheless, they raved about it. Almost each of them swore by this diet and loved it because they had more energy and fewer sugar crashes/spikes. Now, here’s where I got curious. This dang diet didn’t make any sense, but no sugar crashes did sound pretty awesome.
With 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting coming up at my church, I knew I needed to find a fast that included enough substance to be able to carry on my daily schedule of training clients and myself. I had done other fasts before, but none of them really held me over. So I decided that I’d “try” the Keto diet for 21 Days. What could it hurt?
To be honest, I’m hands-on learner, so I was pretty excited to try out this diet. Plus it was a fast, and I always get a lot of Fasting and praying– another story entirely. I got very literal with this diet, which meant I sat down and calculated what my caloric and macro breakdown needed to be. It was all based off of my BMI, daily energy expenditure, and so on. The reason I did this was because I didn’t want to accidentally increase my daily caloric intake (which is easy to do when fat is involved), and consequently gain more weight on this diet.
If you want to know the ends and outs of what I ate, and how I felt, just take a look at my Instagram Story highlights . It’ll give a live action look 😉. But I do want to give you a full on summarization of what I think about the Keto diet, and maybe from that you can decide if it’s for you or not!
1. Take it from me, don’t start this diet in conjunction with a new form of physical activity. <<
ortly after I decided to try Keto, I decided to represent the YMCA in the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon in March. However, it’s been a while since I’ve run long distances and honestly I’ve put on a lot of muscle weight. So originally, I thought this Keto/training combination would be a good one because it would help me lose a few pounds before I started rigorous training. (Less weight= less impact = easier of the knees 👍🏼).
It’s not a huge deal, because the distances I was running at the beginning of the training program, were distances that I usually run in a normal week. However, once I got to my tabata runs and started working on speed, Keto became a pretty big hinderance.
There is definitely an adjustment period when it comes to Keto, which is also known as Keto flu, (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but y’all. During the 21 Days that I was on Keto, my body was not able to muster up enough energy to create the power necessary to run faster. That caused me to slow down the progress of my training program, and it also let me know that I wouldn’t be able to stay on Keto and run a half marathon for the first time. For my body, it’s just not possible.
Not only that, but I’ve went from being 148 pounds to 144 pounds during this time. So did it help that much? Well get to that next.
2. Beware, the “whoosh” weight. Last week while working out at the gym, I was talking to my mom and sister about the fact that you lose a lot of water weight with Keto in the beginning. It feels and looks great, so you feel pretty accomplished just during week one. But I hate to break it to you; it’s water weight (or whoosh weight, as the girl on the mat next to me at the gym described it 😂).
The thing is, during the first week, if you work out or use energy, your body gets rid of it’s glycogen storages. For every 1 gram of glycogen stored, there’s 4 grams of water that I stored with it. So the water literally whooshes out of your system the minute you burn up the glycogen. It may feel nice, but that isn’t actual fat and it can easily come back.
3. If you like workouts that include any “power”, be prepared to lose your power. When I say power, I’m talking about explosive moves and plyometrics, or heavy lifting or power lifting. Like I said, fat is fat. It cannot become a carb and have the same effect as a carb just because your body is burning it for fuel. So if you enjoy HIIT, sprinting, heavy lifting etc… then you’re probably going to hate this diet.
Now, there is an idea that over time, your cells’ mitochondrial ability expands so you’re able to do more. This is why MTC oil is so huge with the Keto diet– it helps those mitochondria! I will say, I didn’t use MTC oil while on the Keto diet. So maybe that was my downfall, but if that’s the game changer then why don’t we just call this the MTC diet? Get what I’m saying?
4. You will realize how much you actually can do without carbs. At this point I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it, but before going Keto, my diet included a ton of carbs. My snacking go-tos were always some form of carbs (even if it was fruit). Even down to healthier options such as protein bars and carrots, I just never gave thought to how many carbs were sneaking their way into my diet, even if they were low calorie.
That being said, I was experiencing energy highs and lows that I didn’t realize were slowing me down. I can’t say that I missed the sugar crashes at all (I actually had them a lot before Keto). So when I say you will realize how MUCH you can do without carbs, it’s actually kind of cool. So I can honestly say that my takeaway from this diet will be that I do need to reduce my carbs and up my fats, and I will certainly be more aware of what’s going into my body.
5. Don’t worry about being hungry, as much as tired. Another thing I like about Keto is that it keeps me full. I usually burn around 2,000-2,300 calories on the days that I’m active, which means that I get hangry pretty frequently.
For the first 12 days, it took me getting adjusted fully to fat burning over carb burning. Those days were quite tiring and I always looked forward to dinner. But after that adjustment period, I liked that my meals really stuck with me. That we can attribute to the fats.
6. If you have digestive issues, beware. As one article put it, fiber has become the forgotten carb. When you reduce your carb intake down to 25-50 grams of carbs, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for fiber. In addition, alllllll those fats don’t really aid in digestion either. (This also leaves room in the conversation for asking “what happens to your cholesterol?” here, but I digress).
Truth is, Keto can kinda wreak havoc on your digestive routine. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience any lower tummy troubles during the 21 days of Keto. However, things like spinach and greens can definitely help. So just be sure that if you decide to try Keto, you’ve got some greens to aid in that digestion.
Hopefully, those 6 things can help you decide if Keto is for you or not. But what is the bottom line?
Again, I believe in balance. I think that it’s necessary for a good, well-rounded, life. However, I also believe that it’s good for us to take certain amounts of time and eliminate certain things for our diet, so that our bodies can jumpstart themselves and rework how well they use the fuel we give them. That being the case, would I recommend a Keto diet?
Yes, but only for a certain amount of time. How much time? That’s up to your body. If you can achieve ketosis in a couple of days, then 21 Days is a good amount of time. If it takes you 2 weeks to get into ketosis, then you might consider more like 30 Days. It really is up to your body and letting it tell you what it needs. I say it a lot, but listen to your body!
Also listen to your doctor. If you have any health conditions like high cholesterol, IBS, and so on, then you should definitely ask your doctor.
And finally, feel free to ask me any questions! I’m happy to share any info or recipes I found useful. I hope that clears up any questions you had about Keto.
Until next time,