HOW TO DO A KETO DIET
Here’s the situation: you probably want to lose some fat. Who doesn’t?
So you do a quick google search on “how to lose fat” and proceed to get lost in the dark abyss of fitness websites, forums and youtube pages that all spout different advice.
In that abyss, you come across the concept of a “keto diet”.
Supposedly, it’s the only way to lose fat because it uses fat as energy and thus burns your belly fat away for that purpose. Sound cool, huh?
You get excited and you immediately start prepping for your upcoming keto diet and radical transformation.
That was my situation 3 years ago.
Fortunately for you, you stumbled upon this article and will now proceed to learn everything you need to learn about the keto diet.
Sounds cool? Okay, let’s begin.
WHAT IS A KETO DIET, ANYWAY?
A keto diet is one high in fats(70-75% of your caloric intake), sufficient in protein(20-25%) and, most importantly, low or with no carbs(5%).
This type of diet makes your body produce ketones, which it uses for energy, as glucose(carbs) isn’t available.
Get this: originally, the keto diet was used for treating epilepsy.
Yep, epilepsy. And now people are using it to get six pack abs.
If you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably asking: why in the holy name of shit would I do this?
Good question, I thought the same thing.
And when I first started looking into it, I “learned” that a keto diet makes you burn fat due to ketones having some special “metabolic properties”.
Eat fat to burn fat, as they said.
Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way in the real world.
MYTHS ABOUT KETO DIETING
First, a keto diet doesn’t burn more fat than a traditional diet.
The main thing that determines weight loss is the number of calories you consume.
You eat more calories than you burn, and you gain weight.
You eat fewer calories than you burn, and you lose weight.
This is the undeniable, scientific law of energy balance.
Decades of research have proven this to be true.
Oh, what’s that? You raise me a couple of studies that show keto dieting results in more fat loss?
K den, I raise you 10+ studies that prove otherwise.
Guess we’ve got quite a conundrum here?
Here’s what it basically comes down to: protein.
Simply put: protein is awesome.
It helps us build muscle, makes us satiated and helps us burn more calories.
In every (proper)study that showed an advantage to keto dieting, the keto groups were eating more protein than the normal groups.
This means they were more satiated and were burning more calories, which lead to fewer calories consumed and greater fat loss.
The second factor we want to focus on is the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
Weight loss is simple. Eat less, move more. Easy peasy.
Fat loss is different. It requires a high protein intake and resistance training to maintain muscle mass while preferentially burning fat mass.
The thing with keto is: it does lead to more weight loss… in the beginning.
Glycogen is a stored form of carbohydrate that carries with itself a lot of water. It’s used for high-intensity work like lifting weights or sprints.
Now, what would happen if you stop eating carbs and deplete your glycogen stores rapidly. Whoosh.
All of that water weight, gone. Which leads to a huge amount of weight also gone.
This is the part when people jump on the hype train and proclaim that the keto diet is the best shit since the discovery of fire.
That is, until they progress further into their diet and the weight loss slows down.
So no, keto dieting won’t get you more shredded than a regular diet, if calories remain the same between them.
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MYTH #2: THE KETO DIET IS BETTER FOR MUSCLE GROWTH
People often like to mention that a keto diet is “protein sparing” and thus leads to more muscle growth, but this isn’t the case.
Know what else is protein sparing? Carbs.
You supply your body with carbs, and it won’t break down protein for energy. Same as with fats.
However, if you enter a calorie deficit, it doesn’t matter how many carbs or fats you’re eating, your body will start breaking down muscle.
To prevent this you need to:
- Eat a high protein diet(0.6 grams per pound minimum)
- Engage in resistance training
MYTH #3: THE KETO DIET MAKES YOU SUCK ASS IN THE GYM
Okay, now for the positive part.
Just like you have rabid keto zealots that will attack you if you even think of eating a potato, on the flip side you have high-carb proponents that think going keto means going skinny. Not necessarily the case.
Carbs, contrary to popular belief, have no special muscle-building properties.
People like to mention that “insulin is anabolic bro” and you would be right, bro.
Insulin has anabolic properties that make it crucial for muscle growth.
Buuut, you wanna know what else releases insulin? Protein.
This is why, with the presence of protein, carbs don’t offer any special post-workout benefits.
And, as I’ve mentioned, every study comparing keto and high carb found no differences in muscle growth.
Regarding performance, well that’s kinda dependent on the person.
Usually what happens is that newcomers try the diet, experience the flu, think “fuck this shit, I’m out” and then proceed to quit.
You need to understand that a keto diet is a huge change for your body if you’ve never done it before.
I mean, it’s switching to an entirely different fuel source, things are bound to get nasty.
If you truly want to experience a keto diet, then you need to go through the adaptation period which does suck but is mandatory.
After the adaptation period, most people can do just fine in the gym buut there may be some individuals who can’t seem to perform well even after weeks in “keto adaptation mode”.
For those people, a regular higher carb diet might be advisable, or if they reaaally like keto, they can try one of the versions listed below.
THE CASE FOR A KETO DIET
There’s one aspect of keto dieting that is well established, and that is the appetite suppression.
While the mechanism is unknown, multiple studies have shown that keto dieting makes you more satiated and reduces your cravings.
In studies that let keto dieters eat how much they want, they always wound up eating in a calorie deficit.
This can prove very helpful for people who constantly struggle with hunger and cravings during a diet.
One group that could benefit from keto the most is those who are carb intolerant.
These guys don’t really respond well to carbs.
Usually, when eating carbs they experience symptoms like:
- Bad performance in the gym
- Brain fog etc.
So, logically, with the absence of carbs a keto diet might alleviate these symptoms and help them.
The second group would be obese/overweight individuals.
These people typically have poor insulin sensitivity, which means they don’t respond to insulin’s signals very well.
By being intolerant to insulin, your body can’t really efficiently use carbs(or protein for that matter).
Mind you, obese people can still lose weight with a higher carb diet and with that improve their insulin sensitivity, but they may perform better on a keto diet.
Another benefit of the keto diet is the mental clarity that comes with it.
Now, it’s not like you’re taking nootropics, but it’s noticeable and helpful.
And finally, the keto diet might bring some health benefits, but it’s unclear if this is due to the keto aspect or the weight loss that often comes with it.
THE CASE(S) AGAINST A KETO DIET
In my mind, there are two situations in which a keto diet isn’t the best option:
SITUATION #1: YOU DON’T LIKE DOING IT
I’ve heard from people who are miserable on the keto diet and are looking for tips to make it less miserable.
You know what I say to them? Stop doing it.
As I’ve said, there’s no “metabolic advantage” in the keto diet.
It’s only for people who enjoy doing it and actually work better on it.
SITUATION #2: YOU’RE BULKING
I believe every proper bulk has two primary goals:
- Maximize muscle growth
- Minimize fat gain
Accomplishing the second goal is much harder to do on a keto diet.
Surprisingly(not), fat is very easy to store as fat, compared to carbohydrates.
It doesn’t require any converting, unlike carbs which are turned into fat by de novo lipogenesis, a costly and ineffective process.
This is why, studies show that bulking on fats causes more fat gain than bulking on carbs.
Secondly, while the appetite suppression is a useful tool for dieting, it can kinda become a nuisance while bulking.
I mean, if you reaally like the mental clarity, you can go ahead.
Just know, it will probably lead to more fat gain than if you ate a higher-carb diet.
HOW TO DO A KETO DIET
Before going full on keto, I recommend progressively lowering your carb intake.
This is to avoid the dreaded keto flu.
Due to the rapid change in fuel source, your body goes through a plethora of changes.
You may experience fatigue, dizziness, brain fog etc.
To prevent this, you should lower your carbs step by step instead of just plunging into low carb land.
For example you might start with 100g of carb on week one, 50g on week two, 25g of week three and then on the final week all of your carbs should come from vegetables only.
Your fats, of course, should go up and your protein intake should remain the same.
Training can remain the same, but you can lower volume or intensity if you’re experiencing fatigue in the first “adaptation period”.
Secondly, you should take a sodium, potassium and magnesium supplement.
With a keto diet come low blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar is low, your kidneys start excreting a lot of sodium, potassium, magnesium and water.
This is why you need to replenish those excreted electrolytes for optimal health and performance.
Optimal intakes would be:
- 5000 – 7000 mg of sodium (not just salt)
- 1000 – 3,500 mg of potassium
- 300 – 500 mg of magnesium
You can get these amounts through supplements, or with food items like broth, avocado, spinach etc.
FIGURING OUT YOUR CALORIES
I like to keep it simple and calculate calories using this simple formula:
Your bodyweight(in lbs) X 14-17
Pick the lower end of the range if you’re inactive/female*
Pick the higher range if you’re more active
*Women typically burn fewer calories than men due to their physiology
For this example, we’ll use a guy named Joe.
Joe is a construction worker so he’s pretty active all day, plus he lifts weights.
We’ll give him a multiplier of 17.
He weighs 200 lbs, which gives him a caloric burn of 3400 calories.
To lose weight, he should eat at a 20% caloric deficit.
That’s 680 calories less, which results in a calorie intake of 2780.
Protein is set to 0.6 grams per pound i.e. 120 grams which means 480 calories. That leaves us with 2300 calories.
From 2300 calories, we subtract 120 calories(30g) worth of carbs, and we’re left with 2180 calories which is about 240 grams of fats.
- Calories: 2600-2800
- Protein:120 grams
- Carbs: 30 grams or less
- Fats: 230-240 grams
DIFFERENT TYPES OF KETO DIETS
You’ve probably heard of a lot of different keto versions that all the cool kids use, like:
CYCLICAL KETOGENIC DIET
Here’s the gist of it: you eat a keto diet for about 5-6 days and then have 1-2 “refeed” days.
On the refeed days you stuff yourself silly with huge amounts of carbs to replenish your glycogen stores for future training sessions.
This type is most useful for lifters who find that, even after an adaptation period, their performance in the gym kinda sucks, but they still want to continue with keto.
Or, it could be useful for someone who wants to indulge in carbs there and then while still following a keto diet.
Regarding the amount, on your “refeed” days you should aim to consume 200-300 grams of carbs while lowering your fat intake.
Taking Joe as an example, he would eat 120g of protein, 300 grams of carbs and about 100g of fats.
TARGETED KETOGENIC DIET
In this version, you eat a small amount of carbs(20-50g) before your workout.
The goal is the same as with a CKD: to provide fuel for your training sessions.
- You don’t have to stuff yourself with pounds of carb-laden food.
- The carbs you eat will be mostly used for the coming workout session and you can get back into ketosis fairly quickly.
Personally, I much prefer the TKD.
It’s simpler, allows me to get back into ketosis faster and doesn’t take away from my fat loss progress in any way.
Which one you use will come down to your preferences.
The keto diet can be a blessing for some and a curse for others.
The appetite suppression and the mental clarity can prove useful, but don’t think that you’ll get some magical “metabolic advantage” by just not eating carbs.
Bottom line: don’t be a dumbfuck and stay on the diet if you’re feeling miserable. Use it only if you enjoy it and can stick to it.
WHAT TO DO NEXT ?
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To your health !