12 Apr 14-Day Ketogenic Cleanse
Two weeks ago I decided to give the Keto diet a shot. In the past, I’ve done Whole30 and adhered to a Paleo diet before – both lead to pounds shed and inches lost. The Keto diet is really really similar, except it allows more flexibility with food, IMO (I mean, hello dairy!).
Here are some of the questions I had when I started the Keto diet.
What is the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet? Is it the same as Atkins?
The keto diet is an extremely low-carb diet. It has many potential benefits including weight loss and increased health and athletic performance. It has similarities to diets like Paleo and Whole30 and especially to other strict low-carb diets like Atkins with the main difference being that the keto diet restricts protein intake. **This is key. I didn’t realize this when I got started.
The Keto diet alters the way your body processes food so that your metabolism burns fat as a primary fuel source. This is ketosis. The key to low carb/high fat (LCHF) diets is to eat little to no refined carbs and as little sugar as possible. This diet will keep your body lean, your weight stable – and bonus, you won’t be hangry!
Alright, but does it work?
Simply put, yes. You will burn fat, you will lose weight, and you will help your body fight off pesky diseases like Alheimer’s and cancer.
Most of the people around us are “sugar burners.” In the morning, they spike their blood sugar by eating a bagel, toast, or cereal. This leaves them crashing before lunch. They get hangy, yell at you about the printer being out of ink, then run out to the sandwich shop down the road where, you guessed it, they’ll get a hit of carbs again.
However, when you’re on the Keto diet, you don’t have those crashes because you’re stable.
Ketones (molecules formed by the breakdown of stored fat) are a very important fuel. And ketosis, the process by which the body uses those fuels, is essential for survival.
New studies show that being in a state of ketosis could not only help stave off Alzheimer’s but could also help cure cancer.
And I can’t be more excited about this.
I watched as both my grandmother and my great aunt passed away after suffering for many years with Alzheimer’s. It was a terrible disease and I will do anything to avoid the same fate.
Oh yeah – and it is actually (god’s honest truth) the cure for epilepsy.
And I mean – I’m do marketing and branding for a living. By all means, don’t trust me.
However, research from around the world shows that cancer cells thrive in high-sugar environments. For obvious reasons, this means that type-2 diabetes is an especially cozy breeding ground for cancer cells.
*** Did You Know? PET scans actually detect cancer by finding areas in the body with excess glucose (sugar) compared to normal tissues.
What does this mean for the Keto diet? Well, signs are pointing to that if cancer cells become weakened due to ketosis, the body’s own immune system may be able to fight the disease. Without sugar in your system, you’re effectively starving cancer. Leading Boston College cancer researcher Thomas Seyfried, M.D., believes that a ketogenic diet is therapeutically even more valuable in fighting cancer than chemo.
So weight loss and fighting cancer are cool, but what other benefits will I get?
You might not feel all of these immediately, but in a few months you could be looking at:
- Controlled hunger. Hypoglycemia? Gone. Food fixations? Gone. Sugar cravings? Ummm…controlled. 😉 Being in a ketogenic state actually reduces the urge to eat.
- Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Decreased joint pain and stiffness.
- Increased energy.
- Cleared thinking because you don’t have those 3pm crashes.
- Stabilized mood.
- Improved dental visits (hey, no sugar!).
What Can I Eat?
Here’s the simple answer to that question:
Anything that is whole and natural and found on the outside aisles of your grocery store – meats, dairy and produce.
The Long Version
The most important takeaway here is what you can’t eat – and that’s carbs. In order to reach ketosis you’ll need to keep your carbohydrate intake to under 50 grams of net carbs (that’s total carbs minus fiber) but ideally, you’ll stay at 20 net carbs and below. (Fun fact: the typical American eats an average of 300 carbs a day!)
So nothing sugary or starchy.
Rule of thumb for veggies is to stick to the ones that grow above ground. No potatoes, no beans, no bread, no cotton candy – oh wait, that’s not a vegetable. Anyway, you get it.
As the name “Low Carb/High Fat” Suggests, the majority of your calories on the keto diet will come from, you guessed it, FAT! You’ll want to set a goal for that somewhere between 60-80% of your daily calories will come from fats.
Pick quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter and not oils that are high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fats like soy, corn, cottonseed, and safflower. Fats that are high in medium-chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil and MCT oil are easily turned into ketones by the body.
The Protein Problem
When you first start on a LCHF diet most people think “BaconFest 2017, here I come!” But this really just isn’t the case.
When you first start keto, it’s probably okay. You’ll get in and maintain a ketotic state…for a little while.
However, as you progress in the lifestyle, you have to be more careful about the amount of protein you consume. Your body is a smart, smart bitch and she loves her some glucose. She actually seems to get more adept at converting protein into glucose.
If your weight loss has stabilized, this is particularly important. Experiment with the amount of protein you eat and adjust as necessary.
You should get around 1 g of protein for every 1 kg in body weight. So, 160-pound (72 kgs) person should aim to get 72 grams of protein. If you want to lose more weight, simply decrease the amount of daily protein. Aim instead to get 1 g of protein for every kg of your desired weight. In other words, that same 160-pound person will not get just 63 grams of protein is their desired weight is 140.
Okay, I’m on board. What is Ketosis and How Will I Know That I’m In Ketosis?
It varies for everyone, but it generally takes 2-4 weeks to consistently achieve nutritional ketosis, especially because diet tweaking is often necessary (like eating too much protein). The most common mistake that stops people from reaching optimal ketosis is too much protein.
Learn what real hunger feels like, and stop confusing it with boredom. Avoid snacking when not hungry. Unnecessary snacking slows weight loss and reduces ketosis.
I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (19:5, which means 19 hours fasting, 5 hours eating) for a while now and I really enjoy it. It is really effective at boosting ketone levels and accelerating weight loss. It also has anti-aging benefits!
Symptoms of Ketosis
- Increased thirst
- “Keto” breath
Keto breath happens when ketones escape our bodies through our breath (ick!). Some people describe the smell or taste as fruity – but I liken it to the smell of a trash can on a hot day. Sorta like sweet rot. Get’cha some Listerine and you’ll live.
Besides being thirsty and having rank breath here are the more scientific ways to determine that you’ve reached your ultimate fat-burning state.
Option One: Urine strips
By far the most cost effective way out there. They are cheap and easy and don’t require any blood sampling. If you’re a beginner or just trying out the diet for a 14-day cleanse, I’d recommend using these. Unless of course you’ve got money to burn, in which case, give me a call. I have several other ideas! These are what I used and they are $11.
Once the paper stick is in your urine stream (or cup), wait 15 seconds for the color to change. This will reveal the presence of ketones. Tip: A good rule of thumb is the more purple the better. However, many people feel better when they are one level down.
While they aren’t the most reliable way out there (medications, lots of water, and the longer you’re in ketosis can all effect results), you can rest easy knowing that a strong positive test means that you’re in ketosis.
Option Two: Breath ketone analyzers
At around $150 they are more expensive than urine strips but cheaper than blood ketone meters over the life.
And y’all – a lot of times they aren’t accurate at all. And if I’m spending $150 on something, it better be right…and make me low-carb waffles and serve them to me in bed.
Option Three: Blood ketone meter
This option is for my gold star readers out there. Blood ketone meters are by far the most reliable and accurate method of testing ketones. However they are pricey. A new unit with 10 strips included is around $100 and then each strip after that is around $3.
What else should I know?
During the 14-day cleanse especially, keep a record of everything you eat in a typical day. Don’t leave anything out! Get a food scale and measure your food as much as possible to be as accurate as you can. Then use a carb counter app like MyFitnesspal to enter in all the food and find out how many net carbs you’re consuming.
Weighing food helps because it’s easy to get carried away with foods that have a negligible amount of carbs (foods like nuts, cheese, and cream) but if you eat too much, it adds up!
MyFitnesspal is hands down the best friend that I found in my keto experiment. If you pay for the upgraded version you can get the information on all your macros (carbs, fat, protein) for the day and the week. It really helps you keep track of what you’ve eaten and, as a bonus, if you happen to eat out, a lot of restaurants have uploaded their nutrition facts to the site.
I have been shocked at how many carbs some veggies have and the app has really helped me learn what to eat and what I can’t.
Something else that would be helpful is to make the diet your little secret. You’ll be surprised at how many naysayers you’ll encounter, who’ll follow up their statement about how your diet is shit with how they want to lose 20 pounds. Bottom line: Haters gonna hate. Why not just leave them wondering why you look so fabulous?
Okay, this sounds cool but what’s the catch?
Your body will rebel as it undergoes a transition phase coined the “low-carb flu.” For a few weeks, physical and mental performance are lessened as the body tries to tap into its missing fuel source.
Think of yourself as a junkie. A carby, sugary junkie.
What else do junkies probably get? Headaches? Yep, you’ll get those. Diaherrea? Not sure about junkies, but you might get it. Sugar cravings? Oh boy, yes. I told my husband that I’d bunch a baby for a doughnut and I was only 72% kidding. Muscle weakness and/or shakiness? Sure.
But these are all temporary and if they don’t improve you should adjust some of your eating. Maybe you need a little more protein or more vitamins.
While this diet isn’t for everyone, I love the sheer simplicity of it. You really don’t have to worry about calories and you can eat good, healthy, real food. My takeaway? Give it a shot. What have you got to lose but a few pesky pounds?
What to read more? Here is some recommended further reading.
- Leanna Vogel’s blog, podcast, website, and cookbooks are awesome. Find them at Healthful Pursuit.
- Sciency article from Men’s Fitness on the Keto craze.
- Some helpful sample menus
- The Perfect Human Diet
- The Anti-Cancer Diet
- Starving Cancer: Ketogenic Diet a Key to Recovery
- Alzheimer’s, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Ketosis
- A Guide to Ketosis
- Your Brain On Ketones