How long these effects last is up to your physiology; but, you can help with the following:
- Drink water. I drank water with electrolytes added.
- Take your vitamins. I also took a pro-biotic.
- Eat more salt. Pink salt everything you can.
- Do not eat outside your macro’s. Any carbs in over the macro % will reset this period.
Eventually, 3 days for me, you transition and your energy levels come back to somewhere like normal. You can tell when this happens as you suddenly lose a lot of your appetite. This is because your body is eating fats, and they are energy dense.
Welcome to ketosis!
For the first month, I tracked all my food religiously. Every morsel. This meant scanning everything into the app on my phone, planning and measuring every meal and stopping when the system said to.
As a rough rule of thumb, and this is by far the hardest part of keto, you can only have a food that has less than 6g of carbs in any one meal. Now, technically, you could save up and have your 20g of carbs all at once; but, that is almost impossible because almost everything has a little carbohydrate in it. This proves extremely difficult when out and about or at work. As, sure, you can find foods with either high fats or low carbs, but not at the same time. It isn’t good enough to eat a just low carb food, you need to also eat high fats. So, 95% of what is out there in stores for lunch is off the menu. Another problem is not overdoing the protein. Too much of that and you start to affect your kidneys. Yes, quite a pickle.
I found myself having salads; but, nothing from a root vegetable, with lashings of dressing and I really mean lashings of dressing. My fridge was stocked high with Ceaser salad dressing, the original high fat one, not a “diet” one with lots of sugar. My other staple food was eggs. Boiled eggs for preference, on the go. Finally, sashimi is ok in a pinch. I honestly regret having not planned to make all my lunches.
After a week of this, I must admit to being bored of the food. I wasn’t hungry in the slightest. Keto kills your appetite; but, I was, well, suffering some kind of ennui. It wasn’t until I managed to return to working out that I felt “better” and started to gain the keto energy I had read so much about.
At the end of the second week, I went to the health check. Firstly, the phlebotomist took a large amount of blood.
“Please don’t worry if you see high ketones,” I told him. “I’m on the keto diet”
“Oh really?” He said, “so am I!”
I took a longer look at him and immediately could see he was a CrossFit person.
“Wow, cool, so you know then?”
“Oh yes,” he assured me, too cool for school – definitely a CrossFit person, “I have been on it for ages, lose loads of weight”.
“Oh, right. Great. How do you manage the 20g of carbs per day?”
“20g!” He said, shocked, “that’s hardly any. I am on a much lighter version than that. You must be hardcore keto?”
“Well,” I said happy to have impressed him, “One tries, you know…”
While the bloods were being spun up, I spoke to the doctor. She was also supportive of the experiment as in general my health was good. Then the blood results came up on her screen.
“Hmmm,” she said.
This is never a good sign I thought.
“Your cholesterol is high for your age and you have a lot of acid in your urine.”
“Those are both known side effects of the diet,” I pointed out.
She turned to look at me, “Yes, Basho, but you must understand that no one knows what being on this diet long term is like. The evidence is not clear if it is healthy long term.”
“I see,” I said, “so, can I do it?”
“For two months only, Basho, OK?”
“And for the acid, drink lots of lemon juice.”
So, with the permission slip from the doc, I carried on.
Being keto is a little like being vegan, and I don’t mean just in terms of talking everyone’s ears off about it. I mean in terms of it somewhat coming to define your life. All meals are keto meals and all events are considered from the “keto perspective”. I went to see Chris Rock on tour at the O2; but, could hardly find a thing to eat the entire time. Indeed, I ended up eating bacon crispy strips from M&S and drinking water. Moreover, many invites were turned down and friends disappointed, as I was not happy to go down the pub all night on water only. Not because they might laugh, that’s what mates are for; laughing with, it’s because I might stray and drink the bar dry, leading to failure on the diet and another transition to look forward to.
I felt like a monk.
And then the upside kicked in and I started to lose weight, and losing weight is addictive. You start to enjoy looking in the mirror, old clothes fit again, and new ones are looser. Your belt moves up a notch, then another. Should you be lucky enough to have a lover, well – there are benefits for you both there and indeed that side of things made up for a lot of the missed nights out with “nights in”.
Moreover, you don’t crave foods. I was amazed to find this an upside to the flatness of keto foods. No crashing, no ups and downs of mood. It becomes very even. I realised just how much a victim we all are to our emotions in eating. How I had been driven to snack by energy drops, and how much we like to eat heartily in celebration. I also realised just how much sugar was in everything. It’s crazy just how addicted we all are to that product and how the food manufacturers take advantage of this.
Soon my energy was back to levels where I could work out. Now, I have always used technology to track my workouts and have a well-developed routine for evening limits. After all, I have work in the morning and going too hard could mean an injury. So, I know my energy very well. In my subjective estimation, I was running at 90% of normal while on keto. And this is interesting because I have come to perhaps think that this 90% is actually 100% of normal; but, that I dose myself up over this limit with carbs and caffeine. Usually, before working out I take a pre-workout and perhaps that final 10% is accounted for there. Nevertheless, I was lifting slightly less, going slightly easier on the heavy bag and running shorter before hitting my calories target for the workout. My workout rules are simple:
Light workout: 300 – 400 Kcal burned. A light workout will not include much weights. Maybe some kettlebell swings. It will mostly be cardio, bike and plyometrics.
Medium workout: 400 – 600 Kcal burned. This workout is almost all martial arts, TRX and kettles before lifting for about 30 reps of various types. This is my usual evening workout.
Heavy workout: 600 – 800 Kcal burned. This is a lifting focused workout with cardio to warm up. I am currently pyramiding up to 140kg and then back down to 50kg on the bar. Mixing different lifts, particularly the military press, deadlift, squat (wide), bent over row and snatch. I also do a cardio bike finisher to bust out a hard stop.
Very Heavy workout: 800+ Kcal burned. These are reserved for weekends or days where I won’t work the next day. They need to be carefully managed against a specific target or training goal. Last summer I did a 1500Kcal workout with a friend and took 2 weeks off after through exhaustion.
In order to track all this, I wear a top of the range heart rate monitor and track to either my phone or a wrist monitor.
When on keto, not only was I slightly weaker; but, I was also hitting these range limits a lot quicker. In other words, my body was working harder. Of course, for losing weight, this is great; but, for performance, this is not so good. Fat is a very smooth energy source, people in keto can run “steady state” for ages as there is no “carb wall” to hit – you hit it in the transition – however, I wouldn’t like to have entered a fighting tournament on keto. I used to compete at international level in Taekwondo and Karate, and I am not sure if I could have sustained the pace of combat, which is a hyper high effort (akin to multiple Tabata rounds back to back), as “gassing” is very easy. Still, I am sure that if I had to fight to save my life, I could once through the transition – I found no problems in breaking boards and hitting the bag hard and my ability to enter “the stream” was not hindered.
If you have heart problems or have not worked out for a while, then trying to improve performance on keto could theoretically be dangerous and, for god’s sake, don’t lift anything over your head during the transition. Dying under one’s own weights is a thing.
Workout logs since January