keto diet

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How To Transition Off Keto

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If you’ve followed along on my YouTube channel you are probably aware that in 2017 I followed a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help improve some of my PCOS symptoms. My body wasn’t using carbohydrates correctly, and I was having a very hard time maintaining my weight, with my body gaining fat despite the fact I wasn’t eating in a caloric surplus. No matter how much I trained or what I did, it just felt like my body didn’t ‘work’.

This was due in part to insulin resistance, which had tagged along as part of my PCOS. Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin (a peptide hormone), and glucose (sugar) cannot enter your blood cells as easily, this results in higher blood sugar levels and if left untreated can lead to Type 2 Diabetes (The Clinical Biochemist Reviews, 2005).

I’m happy to report after a few months my insulin functioned correctly (as shown in my blood work), and due to the high fat nature of the diet, my hormonal profile returned to a normal state (previously I had elevated free testosterone, and slightly elevated E3).

After 11 months of being on the ketogenic diet, not having any cheat meals, not a drop of anything with even the slightest bit of caffeine in it, and eating around 3000-4000 calories per day to try and maintain my weight (which had dropped from around 70kg to 56kg), I figured it was time to jump off the diet. That, and I had a concussion and all I wanted was sweet potato hahah.

 
Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

 

I was hesitant about this at first, because I had gotten so used to eating a certain way, and I am a creature of habit. In the following few paragraphs I’m going to teach you the best way to jump off keto with the least amount of weight gain possible. I personally bent these rules because I wanted to gain back muscle mass, which I felt I had lost (I can cover this in a YouTube video if you are interested).

 
Current picture (July 12 2018)

Current picture (July 12 2018)

July 18 2018

July 18 2018

 

Be aware – you will gain SOME weight

The hint is in the name, carboHYDRATE. Carbs attract water! So the more you add them into your diet, the more water your body is able to retain (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2010). If you got really lean on keto, you’d probably notice you looked ‘drier’ – your abs popped more easily and (for women) during your monthly cycle there was probably very little fluctuation in your look/weight.

This is no reason to be scared of carbs though! Carbohydrates will give you more energy for training, particularly resistance-based training (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2003), and are better for helping you grow and retain muscle, combined with a moderate amount of protein intake of course.
 

Plan what you’ll do

Don’t just jump back in to eating oats for breakfasts, wraps for lunch and rice with your dinner. Plan your transition out of a ketogenic diet.

1. For the first 20 days increase your carb intake by 15% of whatever it was initially and reduce your fats by 15%. For example: If you were previously eating 40g of carbs per day, this will now increase to 46g of carbs, and if you were eating 150g of fats per day this will decrease to 127.5g. There will be some calories lost in this transitional period. Keeping in a slight deficit during the process will also reduce the chance of a large amount of weight gain.

2. For the following 20 days increase this to 20% carb increase and 20% fat decrease. Your protein is the only macronutrient that should not be adjusted; this should remain around 1g per kilogram of body weight for sedentary people, up to 2g per kilogram of body weight for highly active people.

3. After this 40-day cycle you can return to your preferred macronutrient ratio. You can learn more about your body type and it’s ideal macronutrient ratio in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

No processed carbs

Stick to low GI carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar. High GI carbs can cause a spike in insulin, and repeatedly doing this may result in body fat gain (Nutrients, 2011). Here are some carbs that I would recommend adding to your diet, if they weren’t already in it, when you are transitioning out of keto (and also a good base to keep around even when you’re fully off keto!)

  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Green veg (e.g. beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc)
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Plum
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Coconut flour
  • Psyllium husk

 

Nutrient Timing

If your body is functioning correctly and you are not in the process of transitioning off a ketogenic diet, nutrient timing may not be so important (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2003). However, during the switch from keto back to a regular diet, nutrient timing is a brilliant way to get more carbs into your day whilst allowing your body to use them effectively and discourage them from being stored as body fat (Advanced Nutrition, 2015). This method is one that I stuck to religiously when transitioning off keto.

Here’s an example of how to nutrient time your carbs:

Breakfast: A meal with a moderate amount of protein, high carbs and low fat
[[Training]]
Post-training meal: A meal with high protein, high carbs and low fat.
Lunch: A meal with moderate protein, low carbs and moderate fat.
Dinner: A meal with moderate protein, almost no carbs, and high fat.

As you can see the carbohydrates are focused around my (weight training) session, so that my body can use them more efficiently.

 

Carb Cycling or Paleo

If you find that your body just works better on a ketogenic diet, you may find some relief by swapping to a more long-term sustainable diet such as paleo, or a carb cycling diet.

Paleo

Paleo is similar to keto in that has a ‘no grain/low carb’ approach to eating, however, unlike keto, a healthy paleo diet will give your body a more diverse range of micronutrients, and more access to low GI carbohydrates.

Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is another similar option to swap to. Carb cycling is when you have certain days in the week that you will eat more carbohydrates, it works on a similar principle to how body builders have ‘refeed days’ and allows you to build up your glycogen stores, and then return back to low carbohydrate days to ensure low blood sugar levels.

 

Best of luck on your way out of the ketogenic diet! Keto can be a great way to reset your insulin resistance, rebalance your hormonal profile, or aid in other medical condition improvements (such as epilepsy and Alzhiemer's), but it is not always a long-term solution for everyone! 

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Low Carb vs Keto - What's The Difference?

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Low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets are often confused, perhaps in part because a ketogenic diet is, by default, also a low carbohydrate diet. That said, there are several important distinctions that set ketogenic diets apart from more generic low carbohydrate diets. Let's look a little more closely at each of those distinctions, so you can better understand why someone might wish to pursue a ketogenic diet.

So, what's a low-carb diet?

Okay, so here's where the greatest confusion generally comes in. A low-carbohydrate diet focuses on limiting carbohydrate intake. A ketogenic diet does the same. So how are they different?

The difference is like that between a doctor and a surgeon. The surgeon is still a doctor but may be far more specialized. Keto diets, similarly, are specialized low-carb diets. So let's look at the generic—the low-carb diet—first.

First, it's important to note that “low” in this case is pretty subjective. There's no clear consensus on how many carbs one can eat before a diet is no longer low-carbohydrate, for instance.

In general, though, the idea here is to be more selective than the standard western diet. Often this means fruits, vegetables, and beans are still acceptable parts of the diet; while grains, baked goods, and processed sugars are either completely eliminated or drastically reduced.

As a result of shifting from carbohydrate-dense foods in your diet, to more low-density foods, the daily carbohydrate quantity you intake is significantly cut.

The subjectivity of the diet, however, can be problematic. For instance, if you were consuming 300 grams of carbohydrates daily, and cut it to 200 grams per day, this is a lower-carbohydrate diet. If you don't replace the lost calories, you may still lose weight, and technically, you could consider this a low carb diet, as you lowered your carbohydrate intake. Conversely, though, if you replace those lost calories with extra proteins or fats, you may have very different outcomes.

As a result, this subjectivity makes it hard to determine whether or not low-carbohydrate diets are effective, as they're not very well defined, and as such, cannot be very well judged.

Then what's the ketogenic diet?

The two biggest differences between low(ish)-carb diets and ketogenic diets are these:

  • Low-carbohydrate diets are imprecise; everything in a proper ketogenic diet is measured.
  • Low-carbohydrate diets are predicated by cutting back on a single macronutrient (carbohydrates), whereas ketogenic diets require very precise balances of all three.

In short, a successful ketogenic diet is high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrate. When done correctly, it allows your body to shift from burning carbohydrates (or glucose) to burning fat in the form of ketones and fatty acids.

In fact, in order for a diet to truly be ketogenic, it has to pursue nutritional ketosis; if it isn't done properly, however, it can go very badly, and leave you feeling terrible—without any of the benefits ketogenesis can provide.

So, how should ketogenesis work?

When ketogenic diets are balanced correctly and appropriately, that carbohydrate restriction should result in increased ketone production. Ketones, which are a byproduct of fat distillation and produced in the liver, can actually be measured (via blood or urine), so if you are a ketogenic diet, you can test progress.

A few guidelines: Traditional western (high-carbohydrate) diets generally result in blood ketone levels between 0.1-0.2 millimoles (mmol), and even moderate-carbohydrate diet (which some may confuse for low-carbohydrate diets, as discussed above) will generally fall in this same range. A truly effective ketogenic diet, however, will result in much higher blood ketone levels, generally above 0.5millimoles but safely as high as 5.0 millimoles. This higher ketone level is a sign that your body has reached a state of “nutritional ketosis,” and shows that the ketogenic diet is working.

But what does this look like as a diet?

For an effective ketogenic diet, consider the following guidelines a starting point for each of the three most major macronutrients.

Carbohydrates

Standard western diets are frequently between 40-70 percent carbohydrates, by calories. Most research studies equate low-carbohydrate diets as gaining less than 30 percent of their calories from carbohydrates (generally in a range of 50-100 grams per day).

Ketogenic diets, however, often suggest as few as 5-10 percent of your total caloric intake comes from carbohydrates, which is generally in the 25-30 gram range. Many ketogenic plans offer a little more leeway, but almost all suggest a maximum intake of 50 grams on any given day, as keeping carbohydrate intake below that threshold seems necessary for triggering nutritional ketosis, in which your body begins relying on fat for fuel.

Proteins

This is where ketogenic diets show the greatest range, depending on the goals of the ketogenic diet. If weight loss is the aim, for instance, the plan may suggest moderate to high protein intake, in order to maintain muscle, strength, and satiation, so you aren't left feeling hungry.

Consider the following basic divisions: High-protein diets may recommend 0.7-1 grams per pound of body weight (2 grams per kilogram) or more; moderate-protein diets generally recommend between 0.6-0.7 grams per pound of body weight (1.3-1.5 grams per kilogram); low-protein diets may recommend less than 0.35 grams per pound (0.9 gram per kilogram) of body weight.

One note of caution: As Dr Jacob Wilson, director of the Applied Science and Performance Institute, notes, high-protein diets can make achieving nutritional ketosis impossible. (As a result, he recommends no more than 1.5 grams per kilogram as an upper limit.)

The science behind this is based on a process called gluconeogenesis, by which the body, in a carbohydrate-limited state, breaks down proteins to create glucose, thereby bypassing the aims of ketogenesis, which requires the body not have access to glucose, so that it instead will create ketones for fuel.

Fats

 When it comes to low-carbohydrate diets, you still need a moderate amount of fat, because otherwise, the only way to get calories is through an overabundance of protein. In a low-carbohydrate diet, though, you're still mostly burning the carbohydrates you're still consuming, so this is less important.

In a ketogenic diet, however, fat is what you're burning. As a result, you want 70 percent or more of your daily calories to come from fat, as fat is your new fuel source.

 

For many people, this is the hardest change to accept when looking at a ketogenic diet. After all, isn't it fat which contributes to obesity? The truth is, the research on high-fat diets are inconclusive at worst, whereas as plenty of evidence suggests that the real culprit for so many health issues is the combination of high-carbohydrate and high-fat diets, or what we might consider a standard western diet.

Food

Recipe: Coconut + Almond Fat Bombs

Makes: 15 fat bombs
(per 1) Carbs 1.9g / Fat 13g / Protein 3g / Calories 136

This recipe is created for ketogenic diets. If you are not on a ketogenic diet the macronutrient ratio in this recipe may not suit you!


Ingredients

  • 50g (~1.7 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 400g (~14 ounces) ricotta
  • 1 scoop stevia
  • 1 tbsp psyllium husk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened vanilla extract
  • For rolling:
    • Coconut oil
    • Almonds
    • Spare shredded coconut

Method

  1. Place a saucepan on a very low heat on the stovetop with unsalted butter in it.
  2. Once butter is melted add the ricotta and stir until the ricotta melts into the butter
  3. Add in a scoop (the tiny scoop it comes with, or a 1g sachet, not a spoon-worth) of stevia and 1/3 cup of shredded coconut (1/2 at a time is easiest) and mix through the ricotta.
  4. Add psyllium husk and mix through.
  5. Add in cardamom and vanilla extract and mix well until the ingredients start to form a 'dough ball'
  6. Turn off the stove and allow the mixture to cool for approximately 10 minutes before handling.
  7. While the mixture is cooling set up a tray to place the finished fat bombs on. A tray or plate with baking paper on top will do just fine (just make sure it can fit in your fridge).
  8. Once the mixture has cooled enough to handle place some coconut oil on your fingertips (so the mixture doesn't get stuck to your fingers) and roll a small amount into a ball and press an almond inside.
  9. You can then roll this ball mixture into shredded coconut and place it onto the plate.
  10. These will store in the fridge for approximately 1 week, or longer in the freezer.