Dont Cut Your Carbs: My Experience With the Ketogenic Diet

**I am not  a Registered Dietitian (yet). All statements are based on opinion, experience, and my undergraduate education**


Yes, you read that correctly.

The ketogenic diet has skyrocketed in popularity recently. It promotes a low carb, high fat diet with moderate protein, which shifts your body’s metabolism to run on ketones instead of glucose. Individuals who follow this diet claim to  not only lose weight, but have improved sleep, more energy and greater mental clarity, among other benefits. The Ketogenic Diet is often used in Medical Nutrition Therapy for patients with epilepsy, and more recently is being tried in those with diabetes and risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Now. If you know me, then you know that I think all “fat diets” are complete crap. When people bring up low carb diets I internally roll my eyes and prepare to get up onto my soap box.  After completing an undergrad degree in nutrition, I understand (and have  PTSD from learning glycolysis) the importance of carbohydrates. WE NEED CARBOHYDRATES.  Carbs are the preferred source of energy in the body, and should make up ~50% of our diet. So then, why did I decide to test out this diet? There’s 2 reasons:

  1. By severely restricting carbohydrates, the Ketogenic diet promotes rapid weight loss, which is, lets face it (sadly), something that most people want. As a future dietitian, I can almost guarantee that I will have at least one patient/client that is going to ask me about this diet. And before I simply dismiss the whole idea, I thought it would be beneficial, and would make me better at my job to have hands on experience with different kinds of diets. So while yes, I can present them with the current research surrounding the diet, I can also offer my personal experience coming straight from the mouth of the RD herself
  2. Im a huge nerd and I’m honestly treating this like a science experiment.

Science rant over.


Week 1

I started off by doing my research. I checked studies that related this diet to blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease etc. I saw no glaring red flags. Next, we ( I say “we” because I dragged my mom into this) made our shopping list. It was so odd to me because I’m so used to eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, and that usually makes up the majority of our grocery cart. Now, our cart was filled with mostly meats, fish, cheeses, nuts and eggs. Weird. Then did a little planning: what typical breakfast, lunch and dinners would look like (I read that this diet is even more tough if you dont plan!!). And then it was time to start!

Day 1:

I started the morning excited, up for the challenge, and beaming with optimism. I made myself 2 scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil with spinach and cheddar cheese, and 2 pieces of bacon on the side. I was feeling pretty good, and full.

After the gym, I came home and had a few cubes of colby jack cheese and a few pecans. Still feeling alright…

By lunch time I was a ravenous bitch. Im probably just exaggerating, but I was feeling lightheaded and I couldn’t concentrate. Optimism was getting ready to be thrown out the window. I made myself a salad with arugula, spinach. chicken, avocado, 1/2 hard boiled egg, feta cheese, pecans, olive oil and vinegar. For real… this salad was pretty damn good.

2:30 hits: still hungry and pretty tired. Drank some almond milk wth keto-friendly protein powder stirred in.

For dinner, we had a pork loin with roasted parmesan broccoli, also delicious… but 5 minutes later I was hungry. I tried to push past it and drank a ton of water which helped a little. Later I had a few cubes of cheese and headed off to bed.

 

Day 2:

My alarm actually woke me up this morning, which almost never happens. I had coffee and then made breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs w/ cheddar cheese and arugula, 2 pieces of bacon spread with a little cream cheese.

Came home from CPR training pretty hungry. Threw together avocado chicken salad over arugula and called it a day. I do have to say, I felt pretty full after eating… which lasted for about 90 minutes. I felt super tired and lightheaded so I laid down for most of the afternoon.

Dinner consisted of London broil over a salad (spinach and arugula, feta cheese, cucumber, green pepper, walnuts, EVOO and vinegar). A few things worth mentioning: First, I’ve been so thirsty. Secondly: Ive been a raging bitch all day. I snapped at everyone and I felt so bad but I was just so damn irritable. Didnt think that would happen this soon. A little later I had 1/2 tbsp of almond butter and a couple pieces of the failed “fat bombs” I tried making… I dont know if its just the hunger talking but it tasted heavenly.

Day 3:

My body felt so heavy when I woke up, but I felt a little better after I moved around. I made myself a smoothie with almond milk, protein powder, chia seeds and almond butter before heading to the gym. The first 20 minutes of my workout sucked. I felt like my legs were going to give out, I was super lightheaded and out of breath, but eventually it started to go away. When I came home, I made the huge mistake of sitting down… I had a hard time getting back up. I just felt weak and hungry. Meanwhile, Mom feels fantastic and its really pissing me off.

Dinner was kind of a shit show. I made a cauliflower puree ad whatever leftovers were in the fridge. I had chicken but I needed to up the fat content and I was worried that it was too much protein. Also, I didnt want to eat too many carbs from the cauliflower… I was just a mess. Too much to mentally think about when I’m just trying to enjoy my damn dinner. I was hungry 0.2 seconds later.. really starting to get sick of this. I found myself ready for bed super early.. like 7pm. A combination of the “keto flu” taking its toll on me, and if I went to bed I wouldnt think about how much I wanted to make myself a bowl of popcorn.

Day 4:

Hello day 4! So I woke up actually feeling good. Not super tired or anything, but still very lightheaded every time I stood up. I made myself 1 minute keto bread in the microwave, spread  half with butter and half with olive oil (it was surprisingly tasty + filling) and an egg.

So heres where it starts to go south: I went to the gym, when I left I was feeling lightheaded, chest  was tight, and overall just felt funny. I came home and had a piece of cheese with a few nuts. I sat down and immediately felt worse. I laid down because I thought I was going to pass out. I was cold and clammy: my blood sugar plummeted. My body really just isnt used to consuming so little carbohydrates that i am not handling it well. My mom made my eat a little piece of coffee cake and I picked right back up, thank god.

We decided at this point to check whether or not we were for sure in ketosis (we bought the test strips!) To both of our surprise, I was in a moderate ketogenic state.. and my mom was no where close. She was not happy, but I told her that it was definitely because since I workout, I burned through my glycogen stores faster.

For dinner we made zucchini lasagna. This was the first thing I ate on this diet that kept me full fur pretty much the rest of the night. However, I was still so tired and lightheaded and had really uncomfortable heart palpitations  that I spent the rest of the day laying down.

 

Day 5

So I felt surprisingly descent this morning. I wasn’t nearly as tired as I have been, but still lightheaded anytime I stood up. I made myself 2 scrambled eggs and keto bread spread with butter and almond butter before I hit the gym. This was my first real day on this diet where I was going to be doing more of a high intensity workout. After yesterdays incident, I was a little scared to see how I was going to feel. The entire time I was lightheaded and worried that I was going to pass out. I also could tell that my performance was significantly decreased. I love working out and I just can’t take feeling like that. So when I came home, and after discovering some other hormonal imbalances that were possibly a result of this diet, and some serious consideration, I called it quits on day 5. 

 

The Takeaway

If I already didnt understand and appreciate the importance of carbohydrates in out diet… I sure do now. I know people say it takes time for your body to “adjust” to running on ketones instead of glucose, but honestly, the misery that I was in those 5 days was NOT worth it. I think one of the only pros from this diet was that I definitely wasn’t as bloated as a normally am. But beyond that, the side effects far outweighed that one positive. I was exhausted, lightheaded, having heart palpitations + my workouts sucked. There was excessive unnecessary stress being put on my body. On top of that, there was so, so much planning going into meals that I really wasn’t enjoying , and that soon became boring and repetitive (again, this was only 5 days so thats saying something). For me, this diet restricted me from eating the foods I liked, I found myself not wanting to go out because there was no point if I couldn’t eat/drink anything, and quite truthfully, I found myself engaging in some of my old eating disorder thoughts and behaviors: i.e: when my urinalysis came back positive for ketones, I felt the same high that I used to when I would weigh myself and saw the number go down…mind you I took this urinalysis 5 minutes after I had JUST PASSED OUT, and I had this new motivation to keep this diet going… tell me whats wrong with that.

Overall, this lifestyle wasn’t healthy for me. I am fully aware that there are people out there that live their daily lives following a low carb, high fat, ketogenic diet, but I fail to see the appeal or benefit. For the typical person, I see absolutely no reason to eliminate an entire macronutrient from your diet, especially the one that gives you energy is is meant to comprise half of your intake.  So as if you needed another reminded to eat your fruits, veggies, starches, nuts and legumes, this ones for you. 

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