I made the decision to try 30 days of the ketogenic diet starting on May 13th. This may have come as a surprise to some of you because I’ve openly voiced that I think keto is not healthy, sustainable, or appropriate for the general population. It’s just the newest diet fad in the game.
That being said, I decided to do it because I have been struggling with blood glucose dysregulation issues for over a year. My fasting blood sugar consistently came in around 100+ mg/dL). Optimal values are between 70 and 85, and it’s around 126 mg/dL that we are looking at a diabetes diagnosis.
Why does that matter? Well, for one, I don’t want diabetes. But other symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation include everything from fatigue, inflammation, mood swings, weight gain or the inability to lose weight, as well as elevated androgens which can lead to hair loss, cystic acne, or even the pop up of dark black hairs on places like the chin. So, I figured it was time to get it in check.
WHAT I LOVED
Blood sugar improved
Within three days, my fasting blood sugar dropped to 83mg/dL — right within optimal range! There have obviously been fluctuations during the month since those numbers can be influenced by everything from stress, sleep, and hormonal fluctuations but it was great to see such a fast improvement.
I haven’t hopped on a scale so I have no idea how much body fat I lost, but I do feel and look leaner than I did before starting keto. That being said — and this is a point that is VERY important — I did not lose body fat because I was keto (in fact, I was only in ketosis for a total of 4 days but more on that later) but because my insulin sensitivity improved as evidenced by my blood sugar numbers. In fact, I tracked my macros diligently to ensure I was in a caloric deficit so don’t be fooled. You absolutely can get fatter on a ketogenic diet if you’re eating enough fat to put you in a caloric surplus.
*Note: it also doesn’t hurt that I’m much more tan in my after photos and pulling up my bra to show my two little top abs.
WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE
Difficult to stay in ketosis
This, obviously, isn’t true for everyone but I found it very difficult to get in and stay in ketosis. The reason for this is because because carbs are so limited, I had to limit my vegetable intake which I wasn’t fully willing to do. So oftentimes, I was getting in 30-35g of net carbs when I could only consume about 25g if I wanted to stay in ketosis. Some people could get and stay in ketosis while taking in more carbs, but I wasn’t one of them. So technically I can’t even say I did 30 days of keto, but I will say that the days I was in ketosis, I didn’t feel all euphoric and magical like some keto-lovers would lead you to believe.
Because fat is so calorically dense, I was getting about half the volume of food per day. I monitored and attempted to get 25g+ of fiber a day to help keep me full, but I spend most of the day counting down the minutes until my next meal/snack.
Diet wasn’t varied or super healthy
While I always tried to keep food quality high, I hated that I couldn’t eat a ton of veggies for fear of going over my carb limits. I’m a believer in highly varied, colorful diet (with some fun stuff in there too) so the fact that I felt limited to just eating things like eggs, sausage, butter, and ground beef made me realize even more that there’s no way I could eat like this forever. Here’s pretty much what I ate almost every day:
Butter coffee (coffee w/ 1tbs of grass-fed butter)
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 chicken sausage
28g goat cheese
30g balsamic vinagrette
85g of marinated artichokes
1 mahi mahi burger
85g of grilled asparagus
255g of broccoli/zucchini
1 angus burger patty
2 coconut cups (by Evolved Eating)
2tbs of sunflower seed butter
5oz of avocado
Sure, we can say I’m mentally weak or undisciplined but I won’t lie about it: there were four days out of the month that I ate more carbs than allowed. Some of it was out of necessity (was in situations where I had no control over the food and there were no keto-friendly options) and some of it was because I just wanted to have ice cream with my friends. Everyone is different but I don’t do well with too much restriction and there’s no way I’m never not going to have an ice cream cone ever again so I know this way of eating isn’t sustainable for me.
I cut out CrossFit and other high-intensity exercise during the 30 days (which I missed), but even despite that, on more days than not, I felt low energy and weak. There were certainly some days I actually felt good and strong, but those were outnumbered by the days I was feeling hungry and tired.
Sleep quality decreased
I’ve always been a great sleeper so I was a little surprised I couldn’t fall asleep sometimes until two in the morning. This is a classic sign of “keto flu”, symptoms of which we can minimize by ensuring you’re hydrated and getting enough electrolytes. When I started upping my water intake, adding pink Himalayan salt to all my meals, and supplementing with magnesium before bed, sleep got better.
My experience on keto was generally a good one in that I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish. My blood sugar levels improved and that resulted in fat loss, which was cool. That being said, it’s not a sustainable way of eating for me (for the above reasons) but also for most of the general population. For women especially, consistent low carb eating can cause hormonal dysregulation that could cause problems with their menstrual cycles.
That being said, it does have appropriate applications and can be very effective. But, if your goal is purely fat loss, there are other ways you can be successful that are a little less rigid. Your job is to figure out what your nonnegotiables are, what you can sustain, and eat that way while being in a caloric deficit. If you have those three things in check, chances are you will be successful.