Here's what it's really like to commit to the keto diet
I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never made them because I know I’ll never stick to them. So when my best friend called me on Jan. 2 asking if I’d try a new diet/workout routine with her, I begrudgingly agreed to embark on this new health and fitness journey with her.
The first step was to pick a diet plan. “I heard Megan Fox and Adriana Lima follow something called the keto diet. It’s low-carb. Shouldn’t be too hard,” I explained to my friend on the other end of the phone. She agreed it sounded like a good plan and that was it; all we had to do was cut out some pizza and pasta and in return, we would feel more energized, lose weight (specifically belly fat), have increased brain function and potentially lower our risk of developing certain cancers.
So, what exactly is the keto diet? In short, you cut out almost all carbs (even high-carb veggies) and refined sugars (including most fruits) and start eating copious amounts of fat instead. I know, I know — this kind of sounds like the opposite of healthy diet advice, but supposedly, if you starve your body of carbs, your body will have nothing to do but start using stored fat as fuel.
Specifically, your daily caloric intake should consist of 60 to 75 percent fat, 15 to 30 percent protein and 5 to 10 percent carbs. After 3 or 4 days of eating 20 grams or less of carbs, your body supposedly enters a metabolic state called ketosis. When in ketosis, your body stops burning sugar and carbs for energy and starts burning through your fat reserves.
It sounded easy enough. I mean how bad can giving up pizza actually be? SPOILER: Hard AF. But severe carb-deprivation side effects aside, keto has also given me some pretty impressive results.
Here’s a rundown of my first 10 days on the increasingly popular keto diet.
Since the keto diet isn’t exactly, on-the-go friendly, I meal prepped the day before so my breakfasts and lunches would be ready for the week. I made a batch of bacon, egg and spinach muffins, stocked up on salad supplies and was ready to get this thing started.
Breakfast: One egg muffin consisting of one egg, one slice of bacon, a handful of spinach, a little shredded cheese and salt and pepper
Lunch: Mixed green salad with a strip of crumbled bacon, grilled chicken, a small handful of walnuts, feta cheese and olive oil and apple cider vinegar for dressing
Snacks: Two cheddar cheese sticks
Dinner: One salmon fillet with lemon juice, salt and pepper and a heaping bunch of kale and broccoli sautéed in grass-fed butter
How I felt: Pretty great, honestly. I never once felt hungry or like I was on some crazy kind of diet. I mean, I got to eat bacon TWICE!
Breakfast and lunch: These were repeats of day one.
Dinner: Two links of organic andouille chicken sausage sautéed with a big handful of kale and broccoli
How I felt: I definitely started missing carbs on day two. I felt a little tired, but overall, still good.
OK, let me begin my day three entry by introducing you to a little thing called the “keto flu.” After a few days of less than 20 grams of carbs a day, your body is confused. It’s been burning carbs and glucose for energy basically your entire life, and now you’re trying to tell it to stop doing what it has been programmed to do. Seemingly in retaliation to starving it of carbs and sugar, your body turns on you. It’s pissed, it wants its carbs back and it isn’t afraid to send you a very clear message about its state of distress.
I felt nauseated. I was exhausted. I wondered how I would possibly muster up the energy to roll out of bed and go to work. As a result of the keto-flu, I was too sick to eat breakfast or lunch, but I did force myself to stay hydrated by drinking loads of water.
Dinner: I crawled up the stairs to my apartment and laid on my couch for about 30 minutes before I found the energy to stick a salmon fillet in the oven. I spiralized some zucchini, sautéed it with spinach, butter and some salt and pepper.
Then I went to bed. At 6 p.m.
Breakfast: I was still definitely feeling the keto flu, but my nausea had subsided enough to eat one of the egg and bacon muffins I had made.
Lunch: I still wasn’t feeling hungry, so I guzzled down a glass of water and carried on.
Dinner: I read a bunch of blogs and Reddit threads that suggested I might be feeling lethargic because I simply wasn’t eating enough fat. So I dipped a small chicken breast filet in an egg, rolled it in Parmesan cheese, wrapped it in bacon and popped it in the oven. I put together a side salad of greens, cucumbers, walnuts and cheese to pair with my super-fatty, bacon-wrapped chicken.
How I felt: After dinner, I felt renewed. Not only was it delicious, but for the first time since starting this diet, I actually had enough energy to get a 30-minute workout in as well.
Breakfast: I woke up ravenously hungry. So two bacon-egg muffins it was.
Lunch: A salad consisting of mixed greens, flaked salmon, a handful of blackberries, two strips of crumbled bacon and balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner: That Parmesan-crusted, bacon-wrapped chicken was so damn good, I had it again the very next day.
How I felt: Keto is hard to get used to. I was still more tired than usual, but the worst flu-like symptoms had subsided and I was maintaining a high enough energy level to do light workouts, so I was pretty pleased. I don't own a scale, so I'm not sure exactly how much weight I had lost at this point, but my clothes were noticeably looser. Maybe keto and I can be friends after all.
I pretty much stuck with my bacon and egg breakfasts for the first 10 days. Lunches continued to be some variation of a salad or some organic meat and cheese. For dinner, I tried to pair a fatty meat with a nutrient-dense veggie that I would either cook in coconut oil or grass-fed butter. If I was feeling a little low-energy, I'd wrap my veggies in bacon or prosciutto and feel an instant energy boost.
Each day, my energy improved. By day 10, I was able to do my full workout routine without needing to collapse into bed afterward. Many people tout the brain-boosting powers of keto as one of the biggest benefits of the diet. While my initial brain fog did subside after my bout of keto flu, I never really felt like my brain function vastly improved after almost two weeks of no carbs.
So will I continue to stick to the keto diet? Yes, but with a few tweaks.
My carb cravings lessened, but they never completely went away. There were some days when it literally took all the willpower I had not to order a pizza. I don't think it's entirely natural (or healthy) to starve your body of something it was designed to process for long periods of time. So I do plan on sticking with the keto diet because the weight-loss effects have been great, but after a few more weeks, I definitely plan on adding in one or two carb days a week. And I don't mean an all-out carb-binge day, but just a day where I can eat sweet potatoes or some whole-grain pasta. It's all about balance, yeah?