After three years using a Cyclical Keto Diet–which I’ve since learned I didn’t really optimize–I played around with Lyle McDonald’s Ultimate Diet 2.0 for 4 weeks and then started a Carb Cycling diet to try to increase calories for muscle gain, while trying to minimize fat gain. I have gained some weight, and while I don’t measure body parts because, NO, I look like I may have muscled up some. My body fat measurements are still between 10 and 10.5%, which is likely understated as calipers tend to do, but I’m more concerned about trend than actual percentages. If I start gaining weight quickly and the readings go north, I’ll know I’m overdoing it and putting on the blubber.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t feel very good when my diet is 50-60% carbs. I start out okay early in the day, but after continually feeding myself starchy goodness, I start feeling like the Michelin Man with bloat. I started reading more about Ketogenic Diets, particularly Lyle’s book but also Menno Henselman’s work, the Keto Gains guru Darth Luiggi (not sure if that’s a screen name or pen name) and most notably, Dr. Bill Lagakos over at Calories Proper. What I came to realize is that I never really did a proper ketogenic diet, even though I had phenomenal results from what I did do. Yes, I did a very low carb diet, what might be called ultra-low, with weekly refeeds where I stuffed myself full of carbs. But I ate way too much protein and not nearly enough fat (all the protein probably kicked me out of ketosis periodically during the week), and the massive gluttonous feast each week was unnecessary. While Lyle doesn’t suggest the keto diet as a means for adding muscle, Menno and Darth both think it’s possible and I think the evidence is pretty compelling in terms of the overall health benefits of eating low carb. All of this information combined into something like a bullet point checklist in my mind:
- Prior personal success using a pseudo-keto diet, I wonder how I’d do with a proper ketogenic diet?
- Health benefits
- At least a few smart, jacked guys think muscle gain is possible
- I feel crappy eating carbs
Decision made, I then had to wait patiently–which is not my strong suit–until l ate the rest of the carbs in the house. I wasn’t going to let all those delicacies go to waste. Today is my third day eating less than 30 Grams of carbohydrates each day and I feel excellent. Had a great Squat workout yesterday and a great Bench workout today, and most importantly, my stomach is no longer gurgling at me all day. I keep anticipating the low carb brain drain but so far, it hasn’t taken place. That is actually what got me writing this post because I wanted to sort out the hypotheses floating around in my mind.
Presumably during my long stint on a restricted carb diet, my body was fat adapted and producing ketones when needed. My first thought was that my lack of moodiness and lightheadedness this time around is that even though I’ve been eating a carb-based diet for a couple of months, I can quickly resume fat adaptation. But the more I consider that, it doesn’t seem likely. Providing your body a steady stream of glycogen will shift it toward using that for fuel vs. fat which is less efficient. Not to mention that when I was eating carb meals, I kept them very low fat. So I doubt I suddenly switched over and started efficiently burning fat and producing ketones for brain fuel.
My other hypothesis for feeling so good early on is that I’m eating the same amount of calories as I had been, and I’m doing keto properly this time, i.e. a lot more fat and a lot less protein. When I say less protein, it’s still a pretty good quantity (150 grams per day) but not the 230-250 I was inhaling the last time I went ultra low carb. My diet the last 3 days has been about 70% fat, which is still a little shocking to write. I’ll check in again in a few days to see if I’ve slipped into a glucose-deprived fog, but I’m willing to bet the massive fat intake is going to prevent it. A small bet anyway.
If you’re thinking about trying a ketogenic diet for fat loss or for health reasons, you owe it to yourself to check out the sources I’ve cited above for information and moral support.