My personal keto experience.
The Ketogenic diet has been gaining a ton of popularity in recent years. While there have been many low carb diets that have influenced the masses as of late, the keto diet has really made a major impact and with good reason. The keto diet works and that’s not just hyperbole. In the past when I needed to cut weight for fights or even now when a fighter needs advice for shaving off those last few pounds, the keto diet has always been the answer.
A Whole New World of Options
So the initial switch from rice, potatoes, beans, and other carb filled products to fats like oils, avocados, and nuts was a bit daunting. You basically throwaway everything that you’ve grown to love and replacing it with foods that just aren’t the same. Being keto means embracing fats which is something so many people seem to get wrong. Fats are demonized mainly because they are so calorie dense, not because they’re horrible for you. Yes, there are the trans fats that you want to avoid at all costs, but coconut oil and avocados will actually do your body good rather than the reverse.
The options you have at your disposal may at first seem limited, but that’s why you have a little thing called a brain. Research is required to do keto the right way. You can easily get caught up in the pitfalls of eating way too much protein while on the diet which will push you right out of the sweet spot of ketosis. Ketosis is when your body switches over from using carbs for fuel to fats. If you spend too much time eating chicken breast and not enough time consuming oils and nuts then you’re probably doing something wrong.
With my experience first entering ketosis I noticed having a very dry sensation. What does that mean? Well, whether you’re drinking a few sips or all the water your body can handle, it always felt as if you’re just constantly dry. For whatever reason, there was a constant feeling of never getting enough water. But that’s only one man’s observation after all. I venture to bet that every person will have a different experience initially.
In terms of the energy levels, there have been talks that lifting heavy or doing explosive work on a keto diet is ill advised and could be taxing on the body. Considering that the average person gets most of their energy through carbohydrates, switching over to fats as your primary fuel source does feel a bit different. Initially you’re going to feel sluggish, there’s no doubt. After passing the first hurdle however, life gets better and the suffering passes.
A keto diet during fight week and when you’re just living your everyday life can be considerably different. On fight week sodium intake is put in check. That means you’re not going to be slogging down barrels of salt while you’re trying to cut water weight. Sodium holds onto water which means kicking the table salt to the wayside. If you’re simply trying to lose fat however, the sodium intake is less of a worry. That doesn’t mean pour a mountain of salt on your food, but it does mean you don’t have to be nearly as strict as a fighter or bodybuilder getting prepped for competition.
As far the results go, water weight melts off of you like butter (another fat source to be embraced on keto by the way). When you add the high fat, moderate protein, and low carb method to your diet along with vast quantities of water, you’ll watch as your body dumps out the extra fluid. That said, we have to understand that water weight and fat are entirely two different things.
Water weight comes back easily which means if you hop on the keto diet for a week, see crazy results, get lazy and stuff your face with garbage, you can expect to see the pounds come right back.
Whenever I cut weight for a fight it was less about getting fat off forever and more about getting the water out of my system while still holding onto my muscle. Hind sight being twenty-twenty however, putting back all of the water I had lost the week prior over night wasn’t perhaps the smartest approach.
In fact, after one massive twenty pound cut within one week, I packed back on the pounds by eating whatever I pleased. I thought to myself “I’ve been disciplined enough for the last several weeks, no big deal in celebrating a bit.” Little did I know that would end up throwing my metabolism off the rails and pack a good deal of fat onto my frame.
If you’re looking to keep the results of your hard work and dedication then you need to stay strict and maintain the diet for an extended period of time. It also means having a plethora of choices at hand so you won’t fall off the wagon due to lack of options. This may be a bit of “broscience” but by sticking to the game plan for a short time and throwing it all out the window, it ensured that the results would go up in smoke.
The secret to success on the keto diet is by looking at it as a lifestyle choice rather than just some fad you’re looking to take up. Staying in ketosis for a long range of time will ensure that you’re not just dropping water weight, but that you’re burning fat as well. But that requires something else.
Training on Keto
Can you lose fat and maintain muscle on a keto diet alone? Yes, that’s totally possible. That said, it works even better if you’re training hard to maintain your muscle mass. Staying active, primarily with resistance training, explosive movements like heavy bag work and sprints, while adding some steady state cardio like walking or jogging into the mix will blast fat easily while you’re in ketosis.
Some people believe you can grow weaker while on a keto diet, but really it’s about what you’re fueling up on. If you have some grass-fed ground beef or steak with avocado and nuts, you’ll be surprised just how explosive and powerful you’ll feel on keto. It’s all about training smart and meal planning intelligently if you want to make strength and muscle gains.
Long Term Use
So can you stay on the keto diet long term? Well, I’ll say so far so good. being sure to understand your options is a big deal with this diet so you’ll need to game plan in order to keep up. But just from personal advice, give yourself a refeed day after about two to three weeks of being on the diet. That means reintroducing carbs back into your diet which will both boost your metabolism while at the same time satisfying those urges and cravings you could be having.
If you start a refeed in the first week, it could be a slippery slope which could lead to binging. Instead you should make smart carb choices while sneaking a cheat meal in there somewhere. We’re all human, so we need a little break from things once in awhile.
While you could follow a keto diet indefinitely, it would be a good idea to alternate between a traditional macro approach and a keto diet every other week or at your leisure. Variety is the spice of life after all and being limited to fifty grams of carbs all the time can become a bit unrealistic at times. All in all, it’s an effective diet that requires a lot of diligence and patience to follow, but will get you the results you desire.
For a more scientific in-depth look at how the keto diet can be effective for bodybuilders, make sure to check out Dr. Jacob Wilson’s researched breakdown on the diet and many other insights on bodybuilding nutrition with Generation Iron Plus.