70-75% percent of my diet comes from fat, and I lost more weight in the first month than on any other diet.
The Mrs and I have been on a ketogenic diet since right after Thanksgiving. Our weights have been in a free fall for the whole month. Nothing I’ve ever done before has been this effective.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat low carb diet. Typically you keep your carbs under 20-60g/day or <5% of your calories. You also want to moderate your protein and keep it at around 20% of your calories.
What’s going on inside your body is you are convincing your body to start burning fat for energy instead of sugar. Sugar in your body is glucose which comes from carbs. When your body wants to burn fat it makes ketones. Your cells can use either one for energy. As an aside, cancer cells can only use glucose for energy.
Yeah it seems crazy to eat that much fat, but the truth is you are probably eating more fat on your Standard American Diet (SAD), because you are eating more.
A Calorie Is A Calorie Isn’t The Whole Story
I got inspired to try the keto diet because of a podcast where Tim Ferris interviewed metabolic cancer researcher Dr Dominic Dagostino about the ketogenic diet and its relationship to cancer. I followed this up by listening to a previous Ferris interview of Dr Pete Attia where they also talked about ketosis.
Dr Attia had an interesting distinction about calories, that I’m paraphrasing.
A calorie is a calorie. That’s absolutely true. But that statement isn’t very useful. It isn’t very interesting. It’s like saying “You know why Bill Gates is so rich? Because he spends less than he makes.” That’s true, but it isn’t the real story you want.
One question is Why? Why do people eat more calories than they burn? When you ask it that way you find out all calories aren’t equal.
There are lots of distinctions around this, but let me give you the big one for weight loss.
It Isn’t Just Chinese Food
I recently heard that ketones in your blood stream keep you from feeling hunger. In other words, if you are in ketosis you don’t feel hunger. My experience has born this out.
Most of what we call hunger is actually your brain being a whiney baby throwing a tantrum for sugar. Or maybe a better analogy would be your brain is an addict clamoring for its next fix. That isn’t hunger, but it is the most common feeling that motivates you to eat. It is the reason you feel hungry 20 minutes after eating that chow mein, or that piece of cake. A low blood sugar caused by a crash in your blood sugar.
One thing I’ve noticed is I generally feel tired before I feel hungry. Weirdly I’ll start dragging and I realize I haven’t eaten in hours. A high fat meal or snack and a few minutes later I’m awake again.
There is a big connection between the low carb, ketonic diet and fasting. Matter of fact the fastest way to get into ketosis is to fast. The two also share the pain of the first few days. That period of 2-5 days where you feel like crap because your body is out of glucose and hasn’t really figured out the ketone thing yet.
Also like fasting, after a few days you stop feeling hungry. Your body goes into ketosis and you don’t feel the hunger anymore. My friends who have fasted for 40 days tell me you don’t really feel hungry again until like 30 days in.
The first few days weren’t bad for me, which was probably due to taking a supplement with ketones in it. There are few of these around and the one I found also had caffeine in it. Put those together and you can overcome some brain fog. Also those first few days I wasn’t tracking calories, so I ate a lot of food, just watching the carbs.
After about the first week, I started looking for a tool to track my food and carbs. In the end I went back to myfitnesspal. It has a good interface and the best database.
Once I started tracking calories I realized my biggest problem was eating enough. Having a calorie deficit is too easy when you don’t feel hungry and you get full very fast. You start looking for highly calorically dense foods. Which means fats. My cardiologist, if I had one which I don’t, would be shocked as some of the stuff I eat to get some calories in.
Is It Safe?
There is a lot of literature on this diet, and you can do the amount of research you feel is necessary to come to your own conclusion. I will tell you two things that make me think it is safe.
If you were trying to decide if a drug was safe, one thing that would carry a lot of weight is will they prescribe it to children. This isn’t a perfect test, but it does seem the bar for children is higher than that for adults.
Guess what? A doctor can and will “prescribe” a ketogenic diet to children with epilepsy who don’t respond to any anti-seizure medications. Kind of makes you wonder why they don’t just start with it.
The other fear is it will destroy your blood chemistry. Eating a bunch of fat must raise your cholesterol and triglycerides. Studies actually say the opposite, but for me it was just easier to test. I got my blood work done after 30+ days on this high fat diet and compared it to my blood work from February when I visited the doctor, the last ones I had in Evernote. The results were almost exactly the same.