First up: Fats, Proteins, & Carbs

This is my first blog posts, and it’s going to revolve around fitness.  For the next few months, I’m going to “learn” about fitness, and teach myself the mechanics behind the strange things (diet fads, exercise routines, etc.) that gym junkies seem to constantly be immersed in.  This interests me for a few reasons: 1) I’ve always enjoyed exercise and frequent myself at the gym, however I find myself always plateauing (meaning staying stationary – not seeing any change in my body physically) and even though I know enough to switch up my routine when this happens, I don’t know enough to know how to switch up my routine or what would be the best way to progress; 2) I learn by doing, so when I research a new diet or a new type of exercise program, I can actually go to the gym, try it out for myself, and catalog the results.  I find myself getting antsy sitting in one place doing one thing for too long, which is why teaching myself something like crocheting isn’t really for me.  I also am quite busy, so I thought this was a good idea as I’m killing two birds with one stone: I can do my learning project at the gym as I already make time in the day for physical activity; 3)  I think this will hold me accountable.  As a student, I find my apathetic self dangerously walking on the edge of procrastination.  I can already see myself slacking on my blog posts and sleeping in rather than hitting the gym.  I’m hoping choosing this project will be an accountability buddy for me, in a sense.  I really want to do well at school and in my classes, so knowing I can go to the gym, get healthy, and complete an assignment at the same time may just be what I need in order to succeed at learning about health and actually making myself healthier.

So with that being said, the first thing I’m going to learn about is about ketogenic diets. So before I begin reading up on everything this diet entails, this is what I know about it: instead of counting your calories for the day, you count your macros (macronutrients – the stuff your body uses for fuel). Everything you eat in a day is placed under 3 different categories – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – and as you can imagine, most of us have a high carb, average proteins, and low fat diet.  Well, this diet kind of reverses that. In a day, a person should have a diet that consists of 70% fats, 20% proteins, and 10% carbs (as a really important note, it’s important to add that when I say “fats” I don’t mean processed fats).  It may not look that bad, but it actually is quite a difficult diet to follow, because essentially all processed flour and yeast is completely cut out.  Meals should consist of fatty meats being cooked in olive oil (actual olive oil, none of that extra-virgin lean stuff one usually uses while trying to improve their health), and LOTS of cheese. Now from my understanding, which is still quite minimal, a diet like this is appealing because rather than burning the energy we’re consuming in a day it burns the stored fat due to the high amount of fats we’re actually ingesting. I guess in a sense, you could say that we’re “tricking” our body.  With that being said, here is also the negative side of this diet that I also understand: a person needs fat stored in their body, and the body only breaks it down when there is no more glucose available.  Glucose is really important, because it’s what makes the body have energy.  So this may get a little confusing, but once your body doesn’t have that glucose it begins to break down fat, and this breakdown of fat leads to a process called ketoacidosis.  Ketoacidosis is essentially an excess of acid build up in the body.  Now as you can imagine, the body doesn’t want this excess of acid in it, so it tries to get rid of it.  This becomes problematic, because the ways in which the body wants it removed are kind of scary: hypoventilation, which is breathing at an abnormally slow rate, resulting in an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the blood; labour respirations, which is deep, difficult, heavy breathing; fruity smelling breath; among many other things as well.  Ketoacidosis is a complication that one inherits from diabetes, which is very evidently not good.

Upon researching this diet, I found this thread to be very insightful, very informational, and a really good FAQ that kind of encapsulates all common questions may have about being keto.  It explains the standard approach, how to know what carbs are in what foods, and basically everything you need to know.  So basically, I’m going to sum up the main bits of information that I specifically learned from this site, while I also may include some supplementary videos or articles if I found them to aid my learning process.

I hope y’all ready for some information overload:

So the first thing I learned is that fibre doesn’t count towards your daily carb intake.  So for example, if something you eat has 10g carbs but 8g fiber, then it has 2g NET carbs.  The next carbs is what you would count. With that being said, it’s also important to stress that fiber doesn’t NEGATE carbs – it just isn’t counted. Something cannot have more fiber than carbs, so mixing a handful of flax meal into a bowl of ice-cream won’t work!  But it’s actually a lot more complex than this, so check out this video:

*AS A SIDE NOTE: myfitnesspal is a really good app and website to help keep track of your macros*
Another thing I found is this.  It’s an amazing google doc that has a list of acceptable foods and their carb counts.  #bless to the real MVP who made this and decided to share it with the learning fitness community.
Next, I found this.  And it’s ABSOLUTELY INSANE.  It’s a ketocalculator, and it tells you EXACTLY how much of what you need to eat and when based on your body composition, and it also gives you a chart of your (expected) weight loss journey.  Something that I didn’t know – or I guess I knew this, but just never thought about it really – is that with every pound you lose, you have to recalculate your macros/ calorie intake to continually be the most successful you can be in this diet.  Usually a person will just recalculate and do one weigh in every month, and will keep track of their progress that way.

And as if the list of cons that I stated before weren’t worry-some enough, I found another.  Apparently when one starts this diet they more than likely will develop something called “keto-flu.”  Essentially as your body is learning to burn fat for energy, you will develop flu-like symptoms.  Now they should dissipate after a few days… or weeks.  The only way to treat this “flu” is to replenish your electrolytes.  And what happened if you don’t choose to replenish your electrolytes?  Well, for as long as one eats low-carb, it is 100% necessary to take care of your levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium (also called your electrolytes).  If you don’t get enough, you’ll start to experience fatigue, muscle twitching, headaches, muscle cramping, and even arrhythmia.  Fortunately, leg cramps are the most common sign and let on that your electrolytes are out of balance, so it’s crucial you’re really listening to your body when you do a diet as extreme as this ketogenic one.  So now I know what you’re asking, “How can I replenish my electrolytes?!”  Well, it’s actually kind of simple.  This is the requirements for electrolytes: 5000mg sodium, 1000mg potassium, 300mg magnesium.  Here are some ways you can reach those levels:

  • Sodium: Broth or bouillon, Pickle juice, Sodium pills.
  • Potassium: Raw spinach, Avocado, Mushrooms, Salmon, Steak, Pork loin, Lite Salt.
  • Magnesium: Raw spinach, Avocado, Magnesium Citrate or slow release Magnesium for optimum absorption.

Another question you may be asking at this point is, “What will my weightloss journey with keto look like?”  And of course everyone is different and all results will vary, but basically there is three phases:
1. The Honeymoon Phase : Lots of weight comes off fast. This is water that was tied up with glycogen.
*Note: if you don’t experience rapid weight loss in this period, do not despair. Not everyone is so lucky, and men may be more likely to see rapid initial weight loss than women.
2. The Keto Adaptation Phase: Water and glycogen find a new balance and this causes a stall or even weight gain, which lasts for a week or two. Relax, this is both normal and temporary.
3. The Fully keto-adapted Phase: After 3-4 weeks the body is burning fat as its main fuel and the brain has switched to running on ketones. A bumpy downward trend in your weight will begin. The trend is “bumpy” because there will be days or weeks when your weight stalls, or even goes up slightly. This happens to everyone, on every kind of weight-loss diet. The trend will be especially bumpy if you are female. In particular, “shark week” will play hell with your scale weight.
*Note: If a plateau lasts more than a couple of weeks, you may need to make adjustments to your lifestyle to break it.

While on this diet, it’s important to try and stay away from alcohol.  It doesn’t mean you can’t drink it, you can, and here is a carb “cheat sheet” for many different beverages.  However, drinking alcohol will take you out of ketosis, as your body is now metabolizing alcohol rather than fats.  Also, drinking coffee is okay, as long as it’s just that: coffee.  Things start to get complicated once you start mixing in sugars, sweetners, and creams into it.  Many people mix in heavy cream and oils in their coffee to raise their fats, so that’s an option, just make sure you’re conscience about what (and how much) you’re consuming.

Something that I learned and found quite interesting, is that this isn’t a phase diet.  And what I mean by that is when you reach your goal weight, it doesn’t mean you should quit the diet.  Apparently most people find themselves gaining all their lost weight back (plus more) once they kick keto to the curb.  Most people switch over to a paleo diet (easy to understand definition can be found here) and continue to eat like that for the rest of their lives.

And with that: fin.

So I’ve weighed myself, have taken progress pics, and went grocery shopping.  By the end of this learning process, I hope I have progress to show at the end.  I am going to start a keto diet on Monday, and next week I will update how my progress with that is and focus my next post on HIIT: high intensity interval training.

Cheers.

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