There is no better icon for the ketogenic diet than and avocado. For those unfamiliar with the diet, the basic principle is that you stick rigidly to a diet where you keep carbohydrate intake low enough that your body goes into a state called nutritional ketosis. (The reason why the humble avocado is such an icon of the diet is that it represents a highly nutritional food which meets the macros of the diet being relatively high in fat and very low in carbohydrates.)
The Important Bit
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, Registered Dietitian or indeed have any kind of medical training. The information presented here is purely to share my experiences and for entertainment purposes. Always check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author disclaims liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.
So why do I choose to do it?
Having used the diet on-and-off since around 2005 (yes, well before it became “trendy”) I have found that it has benefits way beyond the initial reason I initially tried it to lose some weight and help me to get fit to enjoy my mountain biking more. I have listed some of the things I have learned and experienced below:
What benefits have I experienced?
Appetite - Being solidly in nutritional ketosis has a profound impact on your appetite. I find that this can take up to two weeks from entering ketosis but when it kicks in, you notice it. Your whole relationship to food changes. Most noticeable is the lack of any cravings for sweet things and eventually you stop craving carbohydrate rich foods altogether.
Brain - Being diagnosed as “neuro spicy” with ADHD, I have experienced massive improvement in my symtoms when in nutritional ketosis. As the brain starts to get it’s energy from ketones I feel like my mind has been supercharged, in a way that Ritalin could never achieve. My mind feels much more quiet and calm and I am able to think and focus far more effectively.
Weight Loss - I find that I lose weight in a very strange way on this diet. You really need to measure yourself with a tape measure as much as weighing. As I enter ketosis, after a few days of starting the diet, I always notice a huge initial weight loss as my body lets go of all the water it was holding on to. This settles down by the end of the first week. I then tend to experience a stalling of weight loss but my body continues to change shape. From this point my experience is that the weight loss can be unpredictable, some weeks you lose nothing, (or even gain a pond or two!) some weeks you can lose five pounds or more. The overall trend is always down in a very meaningful way and exercise definitely accelerates the weight loss.
Stamina - I enjoy cycling and when starting out, getting into ketosis, it noticeably impacts my exercise stamina. My understanding is that this is because your muscles and liver are using up their glocose and glycogen stores and your body is not yet fully keto adapted. I always take it easy with respect to exercise for the first two weeks of the diet. Again, the key is to get through those first two weeks and become fully adapted and in nutritional ketosis. At this stage I have found that I am able to exercise with a stamina which exceeds what I could do when I was powered by carbohydrates. Exercise is good and I have found that keto really supercharges it.
General Wellbeing - Finally, as if the items above aren’t enough, I feel an intense sense of wellbeing when established in ketosis. Things I notice the most are a lack of aches and pains, better sleep, fewer headaches, zero digestive issues, improved state-of-mind, and just generally feeling healthy.
What have I learned?
Patience - I have found that it takes patience to get fully established in ketosis. The first two weeks can be pretty challenging as you effectively wean yourself off of carbohydrates and the cravings they have created. It also takes patience to learn to be good at eating a ketogenic diet.
Hidden Sugars/Carbs - If you eat it, you must read the nutrition label. I never cease to be amazed by the food industry’s ability and determination to add carbohydrates and, especially sugars into foods where they have absolutely no business at all.
Enjoy the Journey - One of the most satisfying parts of the diet, for me at least, is finding ways to enjoy making low carbohydrate alternatives to the kinds of foods you absolutely cannot eat and remain in ketosis. Back when I started the diet, low or zero carbohydrate alternative ingredients were incredibly few and far between. There are a massive number of alternatives now, not just ingreadients but ready-to-eat keto foods.
Finally, please read and adhere to the disclaimer at the start of this post. I hope you found my keto diet experiences, somewhat interesting. I am certainly no expert, despite the lenghth of time I have been practicing the diet and I am always learning something new. I am sure I will post more in the future.