Eating Fat Makes You Fat, Right?
Eating fat makes you fat, right? Until I gave the Ketogenic diet a try, that’s the conventional “wisdom” that I always accepted as absolute truth.
I have been eating high-fat, low-carb off and on for the past two years. I got into this method of eating with my husband who was looking for an alternative way of eating for fat loss. We stumbled on the Ketogenic Diet, after listening to Dr. Dom D’Agostino discussing the benefits of ketosis and high-fat/low-carb eating on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Exec podcast #85.
Fat loss has not been something I’ve really struggled with though. Since I have been into fitness for over 20 years, I know how to listen to my body and understand the subtleties of what it’s saying enough to get lean when I set it as a goal. After researching the Ketogenic diet a bit deeper, I was really drawn to all the health benefits that it promoted. Studies have shown that it lowers insulin and helps burn stored fat, lowers triglycerides & increases HDL, reduces blood sugar levels and insulin improving Type 2 diabetes, reduces blood pressure, used to treat and reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms, and even shown to help prevent and kill cancer cells. This sounds too good to be true!
What is the Ketogenic Diet and how does one execute it? The Ketogenic Diet, also known as Keto, and the Low-Carb/High-Fat (LCHF) diet, shares similarities with the old-school Atkins diet. It involves drastically reducing the amount of carbs you eat, and replacing them with fat. In the average diet where your carb intake is higher, your body gets its energy from glucose (blood sugar) when it breaks down the carbs. When you take these carbs away, your body goes into a state of ketosis and will use fat and ketones produced in the liver for energy. To get into this magical state and turn your body into a fat burning machine, you will need to generally eat less than 50 grams of carbs per day, but sometimes consuming less than 20 grams is needed.
For the first 2 years I did more of a “modified” ketogenic diet. I would cheat and eat carbs on the weekend, and even imbibe on a delicious micro-brew beer, which I love! I didn’t really track my food or macros, but rather just tried to be mindful to keep my carbs lower than 50g, or so. I also just listened to my body, ate when I was hungry, and stopped when I was full. This was a major different than my previous way of eating. I used to try to eat something every 2 to 3 hours to keep my metabolism cranking and so my body wouldn’t burn muscle...right? This is how it’s done. Because of this mindset and habit, I was constantly thinking about what my next meal was going to be and where it was going to come from. Since most of my calories were now coming from fat, I found that I stayed full longer and didn’t eat so frequently. Also, since fat is so calorie dense, my food consumption and preparation became considerably less. As a busy, professional girl this was AMAZING to me. I found I could spend more time focusing on other things besides food prep and eating.
Let’s talk about consuming more fat, uh...is this a dream come true??? You mean I can eat cheese and butter...on everything?? What?!?! During my days as a figure competitor, I was only able to enjoy these delicious treats if it was cheat meal time. In the beginning, all this fat was hard for me to swallow...literally. I had the ingrained fear that these things would make me fat. I mean, I used to consume only about 30% of my calories from fat and now with the keto diet, my fat consumption is supposed to be 70-80%! Woah! You can understand why I was a little worried at first, right?
Like I said earlier, I’ve been at this health & fitness thing a while and I’ve always used myself as a guinea pig for new ways of eating and training. It was winter and not really bikini season even here in Miami, so I figured if eating this much fat with the keto diet made me gain weight and fat at least I’d have time to correct it before spring. After a couple of weeks I was hooked! I loved this new way of eating! It allowed me to stay lean without really putting much effort in. The times when I wanted to really lean out I would just reel in my “carby cheats” of food &/or alcohol. My body became a fat burning machine!
Every morning I would have a version of Bulletproof coffee with MCT oil and grass-fed butter (very important!), a breakfast with eggs and bacon or other meats, sometimes with avocado. Lunch and Dinner would consist of meats and veggies with cheese and oils. Snacks were usually nuts or cheese….pretty simple. I would usually throw in a post workout shake with whey protein, coconut milk, MCT oil, and frozen kale or spinach. Going out to eat usually meant options like a burger without a bun, a salad with meat, cheese, or some sort of meat with a side of vegetables. Eating this way definitely took way less thinking than I was used to.
For this New Year, my husband and I decided to really hit Keto full force to see how far we could push it. His motivations: weight loss and health; mine: weight GAIN and health. Yes, you read it right, weight gain. I leaned out for a photoshoot just before the holidays and haven’t been able to get back to what I like to call my “fighting weight”...I know...hate me….#skinnygirlproblems :/ I like the way my body looks when I’m a couple of pounds heavier than I am now. When I’m too lean my strength suffers. I knew the Ketogenic Diet was good for losing weight and staying lean, but I didn’t realize you could actually gain muscle on this diet too. This was until I started reading various studies, articles, blogs on the subject. What’s more, I also found lots of evidence of increased athletic performance….uh...yes please!!!
My recent #ketogainz plan involves the same basic principle of Keto eating; 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein, & 5% carbs. The only major difference this time is I have to increase my caloric intake to support increased muscle mass. With my active job as a CrossFit coach and my average of 5 days per week workouts, my calculated caloric intake goal requires me to be between 2800-3100 calories. To help support muscle gain, I made sure my protein intake gave me the 1.0-1.2gm/lb of lean body mass. I’m also making sure to include strength building exercises outside of my CrossFit metcons, which I also limited.
This past week was my first week of really focusing and hitting all of my macros. To make sure of this, I have been using MyFitnessPal to record everything that crosses my lips. I also started to use Ketostix urine test strips to measure the level of excess ketones in my body. In the first couple of months of doing the keto diet, these will be a pretty good indicator if your body is in ketosis or not. By day 5, my keto strips were showing magenta, indicating that my body was releasing a large amount of ketones and thus, I was in ketosis….Success!
So, how have I been feeling? So far, I’ve been feeling great, no real difference yet. One morning I did wake up late and went to workout without having my usual Bulletproof coffee. Instead, I just put some BCAA’s in my water. After about 30-45min of working on strength lifts, I could tell my body’s energy source was empty. All I wanted to do was go home and go back to sleep, even though I still had to get a metcon in. I knew it was a lack of fuel in my system, so I grabbed a FitFuel gel and was back in the game feeling like a ROCKSTAR.
For the next few weeks/months I will be capturing my journey, good and bad, into this magical and “too-good-to-be-true” diet. I’ll be sharing recipes, tips and tricks, and my personal experiences. Check back often and feel free to contact me with any questions and/or comments. Happy Ketoing!
*The picture was taken at the end of my first week where my average daily caloric intake was 2900 and my fat grams 250. Still lean and mean!
Title Image by Derek Gil at Gil Photography - www.gilphotogalleria.com