My Thoughts After 4 Months on a Ketogenic Diet
For the past four months I’ve drastically modified my diet to follow a keto diet regimen. This diet consists of high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrates. Eating lots of fat and salt is totally against everything I’ve learned over the years. I was taught to consume whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean meats. The ketogenic diet is basically the complete opposite! It was a little scary at first, but I was persistent and dedicated in following the ketogenic lifestyle. Here are my thoughts thus far…
First of all, I think it’s important to point out the primary foods I consume each day. My diet primarily consists of eggs, bacon, coconut oil, olive oil, spinach, broccoli, salad, steak, nuts, high-quality cheese (e.g., not American cheese slices), cheeseburgers (no bun), sugar-free condiments (ketchup, mayo, etc.), cauliflower, celery with peanut butter, limited amounts of chicken/turkey, MCT oil, and coffee/tea. I also enjoy trying out different keto recipes, such as pancakes, fat bombs, cauliflower mash, pizza, and many more incredibly good recipes you can find online.
Carb cravings went away
My first observation after about a month of following a ketogenic diet is that I stopped craving carbs and became less ravenous about food in general. Instead of feeling starved — even shaky at times — after not eating for 4-5 hours, I began feeling a sense of fullness to the point that breakfast and dinner was all I needed on many days. This was a huge benefit for me.
The first month of a keto diet can be challenging. You will likely feel minor withdrawal symptoms when eliminating carbs from your diet. It’s also common to experience the so-called “keto flu” where you experience minor flu symptoms over the period of a few days or a week. I experienced both of these issues periodically for the first two months of changing my eating habits. I didn’t give up, though. The key is pushing through this stage to really realize the benefits of a keto diet.
Weight loss is easy
I experienced rapid weight loss the first 3-4 weeks on the keto diet, and this is with very limited exercise. Most of the 11 pounds I lost was water weight. Even so, carrying around 11 less pounds each day feels great! I also started seeing minor joint pain, inflammation and bloating subside. I later learned that this is one of the key benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle.
Over the next 3 months I lost an additional 12 pounds or so. The vast majority of this weight was body fat. I haven’t noticed much, if any, muscle loss during this 4 months. I was a little concerned about muscle preservation from the start, but I no longer worry about this. I believe this diet is the best option out there to burn fat while preserving muscle tissue, and research supports that. Nearly 20 years after I graduated high school, I found myself almost back down to my high school weight!
The weight loss is easy on this diet. The weight just seems to fall off. I feel full all the time, yet I continue to lose body fat. Does it get any better! Other diets that require calorie restriction can work; however, you’ll continue to crave carbs and sweets. I don’t crave those things. It’s weird; I now find myself craving eggs, peanut butter, broccoli/cheese, and other fatty foods. I do still treat myself with some sweets, such as small amounts of dark chocolate (preferably 85% or higher), Absolute Zero Monster energy drinks, small amounts of whiskey (no carb) or dry red wines when I go out, fat bombs, and foods sweetened with Stevia.
Weight loss is swift during the first month of this diet, and it then slows down or stops depending upon your caloric intake. I no longer monitor my weight loss or count my calories because I find no need to do so. I’ve surpassed my target weight loss goal by over 8 pounds thus far, so I’ve shifted more toward a maintenance phase. If I notice some weight gain in the future, I will go back to being a little more strategic with my food portions. But for now, I have a core group of foods I stick to, and I eat until I’m full. No worry about food quantity.
Energy is higher and more sustained
In the beginning of this diet, my energy levels dropped off a cliff. I was prepared for this and so it didn’t hinder my progress. Such a drastic change in diet will have this effect on the body. For nearly two months, my energy was high one day and low the next. The biggest key to keeping my energy levels high was increasing my electrolyte intake. This included eating more salt, taking magnesium supplements, and potassium supplements (no longer take these; don’t notice any difference).
I consume a 50/50 mixture of Himalayan salt and iodized sea salt. I salt almost everything. I also add salt to Powerade Zero to really ramp up my electrolyte intake — especially during and after a workout. This was hard at first because, like most people, I was taught to limit my salt intake because too much salt is unhealthy. To learn more about the benefits of dietary salt, I recommend checking out The Salt Fix by Dr. James DiNicolantonio. Excellent read!
Because your body doesn’t retain water on a ketogenic diet, you must drink lots of water and replenish your electrolytes frequently. When I fail to do this, my energy levels plummet. It’s easy to recognize and resolve this issue, though. A quick shot of salt in water or Powerade Zero does the trick.
Even while consuming 50 grams or less carbs per day, I am able to do high-intensity interval training and lift weights without issue. My strength is slightly lower, but that could be attributed to not working out regularly over the past 4 months. I do find that my energy levels soar following a good workout, even just 15 minutes of HIIT. My endurance on this diet has increased. I am able to hike further, jog without getting tired as fast, and I seem to recover faster. It’s amazing to me that my body is able to adjust so well to exercise even when it is ‘starved’ of carbs.
A major benefit I’ve found with the keto diet is that my typical after-lunch crash is gone! I no longer get tired and lazy at 2-3 pm. My energy level stays consistent throughout the day. This is due to the fact my blood sugar level stays level during the day — no spikes caused by sugar, carbs, potatoes, or the like. During these four months, my body has effectively turned into a fat-burning machine, whether it be burning dietary fat or burning that fat tissue on my body. It’s very efficient.
Mental clarity, memory, and balance
Research anything about the ketogenic diet and you’ll no doubt ready about the amazing mental clarity dieters have achieved through following a ketogenic lifestyle. I have experienced this benefit, as well. There is a cloudiness or haze in my head that is gone. I’ve noticed my memory has greatly improved too. I still feel that as I become more keto adapted, these benefits will become stronger. Being just four months in, I am still a keto rookie!
The sense of mental balance I now experience is one of the greatest benefits I’ve noticed with this diet. I’d even go as far as saying that my diagnosis of mild depression nearly 20 years ago was largely due to my horrible diet and heavy drinking at the time. I now believe the typical high-carb American diet is poisoning our minds, not to mention making us fat. It’s hard to explain, but experiencing the mental clarity and balance that I do with the keto diet makes me understand just how important it is to put clean, organic, low-carb, healthy foods into your body. One thing’s for sure, I’ll never again take another prescribed anti-depression medication. There’s no need for it!
I have no doubt in my mind that the ketogenic diet has helped balance my hormones and steady my mental state. When I look back to mental state even just 5-6 months ago, there’s no comparison. I feel both physically and mentally healthy. Sure, I still have problems and feel down at times, but it’s short lived. My body and mind just seems to recover better. It feels as though my body is running smoothly and efficiently.
Will I be sticking with keto?
I’ll definitely continue the keto lifestyle at least in the short term. I may eventually add some fruit and yogurt to my diet — maybe even add a “cheat” day once a week or something. For now, though, why mess with a good thing?!
I’m proud of my progress in losing nearly 25 pounds in less than four months — especially being that those four months included Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve! Not the easiest time of year to try and lose weight. I’m also happy about my state-of-mind at the current moment. Keto has a lot to do with that.
This experiment of mine has yielded great results and I look forward to seeing how the next four months go.