Brush with keto

Like most people I fancy loosing a few kilos. Yes I know i’m pretty active anyway and am fairly slim so its not drastic but I would like to boost my cycling performance and regain the body I had in my 20s (had a pretty low body fat count! currently early 20%s and 5% higher than at my best!). I exercise almost as much as I can at the moment (i’m adding weight training in) so creating more of a calorie deficit through exercise will be difficult. One thing I don’t really stick to is a diet…… probably the best way to assist would be to follow a diet, but one that would allow me to continue to exercise.

Being a keen instagrammer there’s always someone you follow with an add on diet program in their agenda. High carb low fat, low carb high fat, high protein, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and so on….. all purportedly the best way to increase exercise ability and to shed weight. There was one that people were really shouting about currently though, the Keto diet.

The Keto diet is the latest diet craze that’s sweeping social channels, with some people looking pretty good on it. Image doesn’t always show the full picture though. What’s the Keto diet then? The idea of a Ketogenic diet is a one that forces your body into a state of Ketosis. This is when your body uses fat as a fuel source rather than carbohydrates. Hence the reported fat shedding nature of this diet, and ideal for what I wanted.

To get the body working in a way that burns fat as it’s primary source of fuel you need to starve it of carbohydrates. This means roughly less than 20g of carbs per day. Thats a pretty small amount. It means cutting cereals, bread, pasta, sweets, fruit, ice creams, yeah you get it…….. anything nice.

So I decided to get onboard with it. Went to the supermarket and stocked up on bacon, cheese, eggs, fish, burgers, chicken, nuts, avocados, kale, courgettes, peppers, green beans, spinach, and coconut oil. Essentially meat, low carb veg, and fat. All of those ingredients sound pretty tasty yes? correct. In fact they are some of my favourites, and can make some great meals. I was pretty excited about getting stuck into it, and started my meal plan. Here’s how I ate for the first 5 days:

Day 1. Breakfast: Avocado, two rashers of bacon, a fried egg. Lunch: scrambled eggs, two rashers of bacon fried in coconut oil. Dinner: Burger fried in coconut oil with cheese, green beans fried in coconut oil. Not a bad day.

Day 2. Breakfast: Avocado, two rashers of bacon, fried egg. Lunch: burger with cheese, spinach leaves tilted in coconut oil. Dinner: pan fried salmon, wilted spinach, green beans all cooked in coconut oil. Ok day, pallet starting to get a little greasy.

Day 3. Breakfast: scrambled eggs, wilted spinach, some nuts to snack on. Lunch: burger with cheese, sautéed kale. Dinner: fried chicken breast, fried courgette spaghetti, more sautéed kale. Starting to feel a little tired and tried a turbo trainer workout. Had no energy.

Day 4. Breakfast: Avocado and two bacon rashers, nuts to snack on. Lunch: scrambled eggs with spinach. Dinner: Burger with cheese and some kale. Starting to feel quite full but weird at the same time, a little sick with headache. Didn’t even attempt to train, apparently this keto flu passes.

Day 5. Breakfast: scrambled eggs and two rashers of bacon. Lunch: Salmon and spinach. Dinner: the last of the burgers with cheese and some fried courgette. Feeling sick of the food, try a turbo trainer workout to try and get rid of the brain fog. Feel empty, I last half hour and give up.

Im starting to get just as sick and tired of writing about this diet as I was eating it. I’ll be frank it was disgusting. The continual combination of high fat and protein is rancid. It was making me feel very sick, my body was exhausted, my mind was fucked, and I was hating it. The house smelled like a McDonalds kitchen, was covered in fat every time I cooked, and the rest of the family had no interest in eating with me. It would have been unfair of me to try and put them through it as well.

Ok so die hard fans of the keto diet will slate my first week. They will say I didn’t give it enough time for the ‘keto flu’ to pass (the symptoms of switching your body to fat burning from carb burning via carb starvation), that there were far more varied things I could have eaten, and my sporting performance would have i’m proved when I had adapted.

This is my take though. Theres some pretty harsh words in that last paragraph, starvation and adaption. To get into ketosis you literally have to starve your body of carbohydrates and force it to switch to the bodies fat reserves, that isn’t some secret diet hack…….. thats deliberate bastardisation of your body. The body is designed to run on carbs, and use sugar. From what I’ve read as well, the brain only runs on sugar. This is why you get the ‘Keto flu’, your brain literally doesn’t have the right nutrients to run on. The keto flu does eventually pass though when gluconeogenesis kicks in, this is the process where our body makes glucose in the liver from other chemicals in the body but its not an endless or high capacity supply. Its essentially a crutch to get you by. My energy levels and power output dropped massively on this diet (in just 5 days!), I had no sprint when on the turbo trainer and just felt like giving up as soon as possible. Exactly the same feeling as a ‘bonk’ on the bike, so I can’t see that anyone is actually performing stronger physically on this diet (despite claims otherwise). Your body simply isn’t made to run this way.

From my experience (albeit short) I think this diet is for people with time on their hands, with no social or physical attachment to food. People who see eating as a chore, and where being lean outweighs any desire to pursue sport or have clarity of mind. Its a talking point for people with little else in their lives, but its a selfish act as well. Theres no way you could feed a family on this diet, firstly it would leave children malnourished and in the need of constant supervision and secondly its expensive (especially if you want to make it more interesting). It would add to the worlds global warming woes as well, the farmed meat, the oil production, the additional weight on sewerage with the grease of cooking. It all adds up, as do any of these extreme fad diets.

Coming off the keto was also interesting, after getting back on a normal balanced diet I would say it took me about 4 days before I started to feel normal again. Performance on the bike improved quickly though as I actually had some fuel to burn, but it wasn’t until about a week later I felt back to full fitness. I guess I shouldn’t have thought that any fad diet would give me benefits in all areas, especially one that induces starvation.

In my opinion the keto diet is an exercise in vanity over sanity, I won’t be going back on it, and I can’t recommend you do either! just ride your bike more……but surely that’s the answer for everything though yeah?


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