Reflecting On My Keto Experiment

It’s now been just over 1 week since I came to the end of my 6 week Keto Experiment. I bet you are all dying to find out what happened after my carb up weekend right? (Ok don’t get too excited now)..

The Birthday Weekend Carb-Fest

Well, my intention was to introduce some carbs at Smokehaus at the OBSTAFIT Social, maybe have a beer or two. Then generally take it easy for the rest of the weekend.

The carb fest started a bit earlier at the Gauntlet Games race in the day. One of our members Claire brought some Lemon Cake. I love Lemon Cake!, so just could not turn down this opportunity (post race of course :D). It was delicious, but made me feel, well…weird! I literally felt like my brain was vibrating for about 10 minutes…a very strange feeling.

Me & Mike Gauntlet Games Finish

Me & Mike Gauntlet Games Finish

Low Carb Beer?

During the few days before the social,  I couldn’t resist looking at the menu to find some low carb beer options (they do exist!). When I got there though that went out the window when I spotted ‘Samuel Adams’ on tap, plus a very nice but strong IPA.

I’m always a sucker for a nice pale ale! I felt the effects pretty much straight away. After 6 weeks of low carb dieting and no alcohol (bar the one pint the weekend before), I was kind of expecting it!

My meal was a massive rack of ribs, sweet potato fries & coleslaw. I followed this up with a stunning peanut butter cheesecake (kindly pre-arranged for my birthday by my missus). I felt the pressure with about 25 pairs of eyes all watching me take my first bite. It was awesome…But hard work! I finished it but not at my usual speed. I do feel like my stomach has shrunk over the weeks – I can’t consume big portions like I used to! Mind you, take a look at the rack of ribs that I finished off below, that might explain the struggle slightly!:

Smokehaus Ribs & Sweet Potato Fries!

Smokehaus Ribs & Sweet Potato Fries!

Inevitably we went for a few drinks after the meal – let’s just say my 2-pint limit went out the window! We all had a good laugh, I think I even did some dancing which is rare for me so the alcohol definitely kicked in quickly. It did feel strange though being out ‘on the lash’ in town.

Hangovers & Kids Don’t Mix!

We had our second baby 7 months ago, it’s been that long since I’ve been out properly, so it did feel weird and took me a while to relax. Those of you with kids I’m sure can sympathise – knowing in advance that the boys are likely to be up throughout the night followed by a likely 6 am wake up call is enough to put you off late drinking nights. Plus the hangovers the next day..I’m not a fan!

Smokehaus Group Shot

One of Two OBSTAFIT Tables at Smokehaus

Plus, for me, a hangover tends to last several days and pretty much wipes out my weekend. Time is precious with the boys these days so I tend not to do it anymore. I’m probably sounding like a boring old fart now ha, I guess I take my pleasures from elsewhere!

So the next day the inevitable hangover kicked in which I won’t dwell on too much. It wasn’t the best but wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Probably to do with the fact that I made a point of drinking water after every drop of alcohol.

Anyway, moving on. It was a top night, really enjoyed spending time with some of the guys from OBSTAFIT after our race in the day which was also great fun.

After my night out I was well and truly out of ketosis so I figured I might as well continue the carb fest for the rest of the weekend. It was my birthday after all! For the rest of the weekend, I ignored the rules of keto and generally ate rubbish. Crisps, chocolate, ice cream and cheesecake. Mmmmm cheesecake, I just cannot resist cheesecake.

A good night at Walkabout Cardiff

A good night at Walkabout Cardiff

Admittedly though it did make me feel like crap for most of the weekend, and well into the first few days of the following week. I just felt groggy and lethargic. I’d lost the get-up and go that I’ve been loving over the last few weeks.

Getting Back Into Ketosis Quickly

From Tuesday the following week, I decided to get back into keto and get that feeling back. Not such an easy task! By Thursday I was still not back into ketosis despite dropping my carbs to just 20g per day and consuming lots of fat (According to the Ketodiastix anyway, which aren’t always accurate!). I assumed that following a few workouts, my glycogen stores would be depleted and I should be back into ketosis. That appears not to be so.

This has given me food for thought for the future. There are reported ways of getting back into ketosis quickly after a carb up. Exogenous Ketones (ketones introduced externally via supplements) is something I haven’t properly investigated yet, also Intermittent Fasting. Two things I’m definitely going to look into.

Workouts Following The Carb Up

During the week following my carb-up, I had some of my best workouts so far! I Introduced a new gym workout which involves 500 kettlebell swings and lots of strength exercises. The guys at OBSTAFIT can vouch for this one, it’s a killer session. I will post it up at some point.

Before my gym sessions and running sessions, I had an espresso plus some peanut butter. I’m not sure whether it was this pre workout fuel that made the difference or the carb refeed on the weekend. Either way, I felt really good during all my sessions! This article about increased leptin levels following a carb re-feed might explain that feeling.

However, I’ve been feeling constantly hungry most of the week. The carb cravings have definitely come back again. Watching my wife tuck into her Dairy Milk choccies on her birthday was like torture. Never has the smell of chocolate smelt so good!

On Reflection

As you can probably tell I’m massively chuffed at the results at the end of this experiment. I’ve seen huge improvements in mental clarity, body fat and energy levels. Plus I got to eat food that actually tastes bloody good!

Admittedly sometimes it was hard work prepping all my meals on Sunday. But it has got easier over time as I’ve got used to the recipes and quantities etc. Logging everything in My Fitness Pal does help in that I’ve learnt a lot about how many calories are in different foods and what the macros are (breakdown of carbs/protein and fat). So this week I haven’t been logging at all, just freestyling. I’m still measuring now and again but finding it easier just to throw stuff together and trust my instincts when it comes to calories and carb count.

Is Keto Sustainable?

This is one of the objections I get thrown at me when I mention I’m doing Keto. “It’s just a fad diet, you can’t sustain such a diet”. Most ‘fad’ diets are indeed not sustainable, mainly because they are too restrictive and because the food often tastes like crap! Keto isn’t a fad diet. The only restriction is on a number of carbs each day. No-one is telling me you can’t eat this you can’t eat that. The choices are in my hands. So long as my macro’s line up at the end of the day I can eat whatever I feel like..

Also, the food tastes amazing! Unlike some of the bland, tasteless recipes that you find on a typical Low Fat Diet.The reason these diets are successful short term is that calories are reduced. For most people, a drop in calories will result in weight loss. However, the food has to be tasty,

The reason these diets are successful short term is because calories are reduced. For most people, a drop in calories will result in weight loss. However, the food has to be tasty, otherwise long term it’s not sustainable. Which is why many people end up falling off the wagon when it comes to most low fat and faddy diets.

I’ve been eating ‘clean’ for several years now. Low carb, high protein..but without the fat there is not much taste at all. The Keto Diet is different. I now get to add butter, cheese, avocado, nuts, olive oil and lots of other tasty stuff. These things all add taste to what would be a bland meal otherwise.

Preparation is Key

It sounds cheesy but preparation is key to making this work. Being able to pull a meal out of the freezer/fridge and quickly zap it in the microwave takes away all the stress of trying to think of a suitable meal. My routine was to cook up a big casserole every Sunday, along with some almond & coconut oil fat bombs or lemon poppyseed muffins. That would see me through the days in work.

My breakfast would either be a KetoProof Coffee and some My Protein Impact Whey; or simply bacon, eggs & avocado, or a low carb cereal (lots of nuts, flax, seeds, butter & greek yoghurt = delicious!!).

Keto Bacon Eggs & Avocado

Probably the most simple but filling Keto Brekkie

Evenings weren’t too difficult either. My boys are dairy/soy intolerant which means they can’t eat the same stuff as me, same for the missus as she’s breastfeeding. So what we usually did was cook up some meat (gammon, beef mince, chicken) with some veg (plus potato/pasta for Lisa). I would then simply add fat, whether that be cream cheese, butter, cheddar, sour cream, oil….Job done

Do I Miss the sweet stuff?

Erythritol , Liquid Stevia and Cacao Nibs are the secret to killing off any sweet cravings.

There are endless Keto friendly sweet recipe’s out there. The staples for me so far have been Lemon & PoppySeed Muffins, Macadamia Berry Blast Granola and Coconut Oil & Almond Fat Bombs (stick some cacao nibs and cocoa powder in these bad boys to make them even more epic!).

What Happens Next?

Well, I’ve basically gone straight back into the Keto Diet. It kind of feels like routine now, I don’t feel like I can go back to my previous way of eating.

I’m going to stay strict now until I drop back into ketosis, then monitor things for a while.

Today is Tuesday 1st August. It’s been over a week since my carb up. I must be back into ketosis by now – it does feel like I am. I can’t test for sure though as I’ve run out of ketostix 🙁

My long term plan, for the time being, is to stay strict keto all week. I’ll have one day during the weekend where I have some carbs and relax things a bit. I’m going to try this strategy for a while and see how it makes me feel. I don’t think I’ll bother with the carb pre-workout strategy until I feel like caffeine and fats are not working anymore. At the moment my workouts are going well. If it ain’t broke why fix it?

Cardiff Half Training – A Dilemma

I am going to have a dilemma at some point when it comes to training for the Cardiff Half Marathon. My running has stepped up a level the last few weeks. Last Fridays run club was the best one so far for me. During the last 3 km’s of the run, I managed to increase the pace to 4:07, 4:21 and 4:13 mins per km. That is after a week on strict keto (yet not showing a state of ketosis on the sticks!).

So back to the dilemma – given that so far the training has gone well on keto, and even my speed workouts are improving, do I continue to stay low carb during my workouts? What about the race itself? I’m determined to beat sub 90 mins this year, so should I do keto even during the race? Or add some carbs pre-race and during? What effect is this going to have on me after months of low carb? Will my body be able to process the glucose as effectively as it does the fat? Could adding carbs even be counter productive?!

So many questions! I think I just need to try a few different strategies during my training sessions over the next few months. Add carbs to a few workouts, remove them from others and compare the results.

Is anyone else tempted to try Keto or something similar? Let me know your thoughts in the comments

Written By: Gareth

I'm a full qualified PT with a number of OCR's on my CV including the legendary winter Tough Guy. Also a former Light Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion and Black Belt! You'll usually find me over Roath Rec beasting training the guys to help them overcome their obstacles :D

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