Ketogenic Dieting (Again)

My body really wants to store every gram of carbohydrate I take in right around the middle. I’m convinced that my ancestors were arctic explorers. I don’t really care for the heat, I don’t mind the cold at all and my body wants to store fat right around the vital organs which helps to hold heat in and I can maintain low intensity cardio for hours. Perfect physical qualities for an arctic explorer (the kind that walked anyway).

I have had fat around the middle since I was a teenager and have tried several different approaches to dieting in order to get rid of it. I am not overweight by medical standards, approximately 15-17% bodyfat, but I would like to be at about 10%. I have tried ultra-low carb dieting several times with mixed success. I decided to give it another try about a month and a half ago and am down approximately 8 Lbs. I assume at least half of that is water. My waist measurement is probably the best indicator of fat loss for me and it has decreased 2 inches which is good.

I thought I would mention a few pros and cons about this diet for anyone that is considering trying it.

Pros:

  • Constant energy throughout the day. This is the biggest plus for me. I used to get these really bad carb crashes after lunch and for years I wondered what the problem was. The first time I tried a low carb diet they completely stopped and it dawned on me. I have also noticed increased mental focus and clarity. This is a side effect of the brain utilizing ketones instead of glucose. Some people stay on this diet just for these reasons alone.
  • If done properly, it works.
  • It is muscle sparing. You may lose a small amount of muscle initially, but much less than low calorie carbohydrate based diets.
  • Once fat adapted, you won’t really be that hungry.
  • Theoretically you will tap into a huge store of energy, on the order of 10’s of 1000’s of calories depending on your bodyfat content. My experience has been that this is sort of true, but I feel like there is a rate limit on the metabolism of fat. When I am running I do run out of gas. However, there are athletes who do marathons in a ketogenic state and so it is possible.
  • There are many proven positive health impacts: reduced cholesterol, remission of diabetes, reduction in blood pressure, reduction of swelling, etc.
  • I really enjoy eggs fried in butter, cheese, whole cream, fatty meat, etc.

Cons:

  • Availability of compatible food. If you travel, this diet can be difficult. You can usually find decent things in restaurants, but finding something in an airport can be a challenge. The best bet is to carry a bag of nuts.
  • I don’t believe it is possible to build muscle on this diet. Others disagree, but everyone is different. I have continued to lift hard and I have continued to lose strength despite doing everything correctly.
  • Water secretion. You will have to pee a lot because your body will not store water. Not a huge deal, but annoying sometimes.
  • Salt secretion. Your body will no longer store salt and you will pee all of it out. Electrolyte management is a huge issue for me. I find that I need to take in on the order of 4 grams of salt/day or I start feeling lethargic and get crampy. I typically drink a few cups of bouillon throughout the day and salt my food liberally.
  • Fat/Protein balance. Some sources recommend 50-60% of calories from fat. I have found that I need to keep it much higher, on the order of 75% or else I will feel like hell.
  • Adaptation period. This can be rough and can last a while. Most sources say 2-6 weeks. You won’t be tired throughout this period, probably just a few days, but you will be weak. If you’re just sitting around then it isn’t an issue, but if you have an active lifestyle (like me) then it gets annoying.
  • Loss of Strength/Muscle. Most sources claim that you will initially lose strength but it will come back with a vengeance after a few weeks. I haven’t experienced this. I am still weaker than when I started and it has been 6 weeks.
  • No sugar, bread, rice, potatoes, tortillas, etc. It is as hard as it sounds, at least for me. Especially when you see everyone around you drinking coke, eating ice cream, cookies ….

I really feel bad for people that have a lot of weight to lose after going through what I have just to get rid of a few Lbs. It is not easy.

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