The Ketogeinc Diet has been my nutrition nemesis for well over a decade. Not to be too melodramatic, but it felt like my own personal Moby Dick. I’ve tried and failed several times throughout my fitness and nutrition career.
Deep down, I started to resent it.
I made all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t do it. Like any kind of addict not wanting to face their vice, I hated admitting the truth… I was a carb junkie.
I had to nail this Ketogenic diet and Low Carb High Fat thing once and for all. I couldn’t let a diet get the best of me.
Why did I want to do a Ketogenic / Low Carb High Fat diet?
It’s a sad fact, but as we get older, fat accumulates around the midsection. Sure, you can start training for ultramarathons and eat whatever you want, or you can change your diet.
As someone who reads the research and makes science-backed, evidence-based decisions, I know this type of diet really works. Although I love the image of shiny, happy, plant based diets, the fact is, for many people, myself included, it’s hard to stay really lean on them.
I also want to be the best nutrition coach I can be. I figured by doing it myself, I could come up with some great recipes and few helpful tips along the way.
What is a Ketogenic Diet anyway?
A ketogenic diet (keto, for short) is high in quality fats, moderate in protein (not as much as you think) and extremely low in carbs. You have probably heard of the “The Atkins Diet.” This is one type of ketogenic diet.
The concept is you eat mostly fat to burn mostly fat.
Normally our bodies prefer to burn glucose (aka, sugar), what all carbohydrates break down into for energy. When your body can’t find any more glucose to burn, it will burn fat instead. But as long as glucose and glycogen (the stored form of glucose) are available to use, the body’s ability to burn fat is stymied. You can blame it on insulin which blocks fat from burning and is released whenever we eat… unless you’re just snacking on a pat of butter.
Fats are the only type of food that don’t cause insulin to be released.
On a ketogenic diet, the body fires up it’s back-up system for creating energy to run on. It can make a substance out of fat called ketone bodies (ketones, for short).
The goal of a ketogenic diet is to eat in such a way that the body needs to produce ketones for energy. This is called “nutritional ketosis” and is when blood ketone levels are in the range of 0.5 to 3.0 mmol/L.
This usually means eating only 25 to 50 grams of cabs a day.
What is a HFLC Diet?
A High-Fat, Low-Carb (HFLC) diet may or may not put you into full nutritional ketosis.
Typically, you eat less than 30% of your calories from carbs on a HFLC diet. This is what I’m doing now for maintenance. Your total carb intake can range from around 50 to 150g of carbs per day with the majority of calories coming from fats.
Many people confuse these diets for being high in protein. Both ketogenic and HFLC diets are not high protein. The majority of calories come from fat. Too much protein on a ketogenic diet can knock you out of ketosis.
What’s so great about being in ketosis?
The obvious answer is fast weight loss, so long as you’re not overeating calories. If you still think there’s a magic diet that allows you to eat as much as you want, exceeding the number of calories your body expends, you’re in dreamland.
However, the nice thing about ketogenic diets, is once you’re past the “keto flu” stage, which happens on or around day 3, hunger for most people magically disappears.
The keto flu will happen to most people, especially women. Think of it as your body going thru the transition of being a carb burner to a fat burner. Symptoms include being foggy headed, low energy, fatigued and headachy. Make it through that day and you will feel better than ever going forward.
If you don’t start feeling awesome, you may still be eating too many carbs or protein… a common mistake and the reason I failed in all my previous attempts.
Here’s how I did it this time
If you want to stop reading right here, just know that I dropped to the lowest body fat I’ve ever had in just a few weeks. According the InBody bio-impedance machine, I was 14.4% at the peak of the diet. For my age, that pretty much blew my mind.
My recipe for success was this:
Step 1. I was on a Paleo diet for several months. This got me over my sugar addiction and off of starches and grains like pasta, rice, beans and bread. I made the occasional exception on days I attended parties or special events.
Step 2. Then, I dropped my total carbs to about 100g or less a day for a week.
Step 3. Next, I did the 5 day ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet. This is a low-calorie plant based diet formulated for longevity, stem cell proliferation, autophagy and weight loss. It was created by one of the world’s most respected researchers on longevity, Dr. Valter Longo and clinically tested at USC. The ProLon FMD will put you into ketosis. (If you want to try it too, click the link and get a 10% discount on your order)
Step 4. At the tail end of doing ProLon, I went right into a ketogenic diet.
And that was it. The bit of stubborn fat I was carrying around the waistline melted away.
Now I’m in maintenance mode, primarily eating a high fat, low carb diet. I’m also trying to put on a little more muscle. That means I need to let a little more insulin do its duty.
Are High Fat Low Carb Diets good for you?
If you’re on a high carb diet right now and have some extra padding you’d prefer to shed, then it’s quite possible a HFLC can make you healthier. Definitely leaner.
Over the last decade, studies have been accumulating that show a low carb and high fat can:
• Help you lose weight lose weight relatively quickly.
• Lower your triglycerides (blood fats).
• Raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
• Improve your cardiovascular health.
Ketogenic diets are being used to help treat chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even optimize performance in certain athletes.
If you’re going to try it, know this:
If you do an extremely low-carb diet for too long, it can cause disruptions to several hormones, especially in women. Therefore, it’s recommended to only do the diet for about 3 months unless you’re under a doctor’s supervision. If you have diabetes, hypoglycemia or heart disease, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
If you can use guidance creating a personalized version of the diet for your lifestyle, work with a professional nutrition coach.