Introduction

Only if you had been marooned on a desert island, or perhaps blasted into outer space, could you claim to have not heard about the Keto diet over the past few months. Ironically, should either of these situations actually apply to you, then you probably would be – by virtue of starving to death – in ketosis already!

Fad dieting can be dangerous, I found this out the hard way when I lost weight on the Atkins diet and ended up in a urologist’s office having my kidneys scanned. So, I personally took a lot of convincing to try the Keto diet for weight loss. As Michael Jackson would say, I started with the man in the mirror. And what I saw I didn’t like. You see, I had spent the entirety of 2017 working out in my home gymnasium, and yes – for sure – I had the muscles to prove its effectiveness. My lifts had vastly improved from deadlifting 80kg on a good day to easily lifting 140kg for 15 reps. From a 16kg kettlebell to an enormous cannonball-like 32kg solid iron kettle, the same size as used by the Russian military. All that was fine; what was missing was the weight loss to go with it.

Weight is a funny thing. As a married and settled man, who works on a computer, commutes by train 20% of the day and sits at home in the evening, I knew that the effort levels I would need to reach in the gym to lose weight. They would be basically impossible. I would simply continue to bulk. Instead, I set out to focus my efforts on losing some kilograms through a new diet.

It is often said that losing weight is a simple case of calories in and calories out. The media is, however, full of celebrity methods for seemingly circumnavigating this “rule”. I looked through the latest methods of the fad diets that infest the internet. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I recall one, which was aptly named, “the bananas diet,” being particularly, well, bent. I was reading a forum where an “expert” in this diet was chastising someone for their question regarding what to have for breakfast as they were already eating 7 bananas in the morning and wondered why they were not losing any weight.

“Ha-ha, dude!” He wrote, “7 bananas are far too FEW for breakfast!”

Truly the mind boggles as to what is happening to these people… perhaps even this is how a new species is born; split off into a genetic niche? Is this how the panda became purely a bamboo eater? Chased into the snow-covered mountains by the giant – now extinct – bears of ancient times? I can see them now, rolling back with their feet in the air, crying in laughter because some idiot can only manage 7 bamboo shoots before lunch! And presto, you’re stuck with it and can never eat anything else again.

Actually, I may have theoretically tried that with pizza before, so perhaps not?

Regardless, one diet started to reappear more often in my searches, mainly because it was the purview of a group of people I had come to respect in terms of high performance. No, not the Kardashian’s, I am talking of CrossFit addicts. There is truly no group more obsessed with physical performance and diet. If they were doing Keto, then I knew it would be at least worth looking at.

What I found when I investigated it was that the diet had initially been created as a medical treatment for all sorts of conditions. The one you hear most often mentioned is epilepsy; but, I can also report that one of my friends has been put on the diet for narcolepsy and is so enamoured that he is “Keto for life”. I was a little more sceptical. How could a diet enable me to have bacon and fried eggs for breakfast and promote weight loss?

I knew that this would require planning.

Keto Breakfast

Keto diet breakfast

Starting the diet

The first thing I decided was to ask Cesca if she would like to do this diet as well. With both of us recording our progress, we could support and encourage each other, and – as she makes the food during the week – with Cesca involved it would be able to easier plan the meals.

Indeed, planning is a large part of succeeding on the Keto diet as we shall see.

The second decision was to also stop drinking alcohol during the diet. This is for two reasons: firstly, I always stop drinking for January through March, every year. Second, many drinks have carbs in them. Lots of carbs. And carbs are out.

The final upfront decision I took was to go and speak to my doctor. In fact, I did a lot more than this. My company offers people of my grade a full medical every two years. It’s part of my package. So, I booked one for after two weeks on the diet. This included blood work and a whole hour with a doctor.

So, armed with a couple of keto diet kindle books, I began.

The first thing I did was order some supplies. The Keto diet involves eating with the following breakdown in macro’s:

4% carbs
15% protein
81% fat

Which is almost the exact reverse of the normal carbohydrate diets we are all used to? So, in order to track this, I needed a really good phone app to help. I chose to go for the paid version of Lifesum, which has a plan for “Ketogenic Strict”. I could then spread out my carb allowance throughout the day. We shall go much further into food below.

The next thing I needed was a way of measuring my ketosis levels. For this, I purchased some urine strips from Amazon. Although they are not designed for dieters, as the instructions make clear. In fact, they say that if the strip turned purple call an ambulance! Now, you may have heard many strange things about Ketosis. This is because, for some portions of the population, ketosis is a deadly condition. Namely, these strips were designed for diabetics. I had an interesting conversation recently with two veterinary surgeons, who laughed nervously when I mentioned being in ketosis as for they, this is normally a sign of a very serious life-threatening condition in an animal.

Why would anyone put themselves purposely into this state?

Keto stick

Ketone measuring stick

Keto stick

Progress

The science of keto

Normally (on a +100g carbs a day diet), the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fuelling brain-function. Before sending excess energy to fat cells, your liver and muscles will store carbs in a mechanism called glycogen. However, if there is little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are produced mainly in the mitochondria of liver cells, and synthesis can occur in response to an unavailability of blood glucose, such as during fasting. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood is known as ketosis.

The result is a drop in insulin and what is called “leptin-induced satiety”.

That is, you feel full and have very little hunger.

So, in reality you lose fat on a ketogenic diet the same way you do on other diets: you burn more calories than you consume.

The next thing I purchased to prepare was Keto friendly foods and ingredients. Lots of high-quality meats, tons of vegetables, “keto” flour (which is made from almonds), American measuring cups (most keto recipes are in American measurements), MCT oil (which you add to coffee) very good vitamin tablets and Himalayan Pink Salt.

Pink salt?

Yes, this pink salt, which you use just like normal salt, is full of magnesium and potassium, which you will be very short of on the keto diet (unlike on the bananas diet, eh?).

Keto stick

Drink lots of this

Keto stick

Black coffee is OK!

All of these items were to head off what is known as the Keto Flu.

When you first go on a keto diet your body has to switch to using fats for energy. This is difficult. Indeed, I can attest t