By now you've heard all the buzz about Ketogenic Diets and Low Carbohydrate Diets, but what are they, how do they work, and is it for you?
A Low Carbohydrate Diet (LCD, but often called "low card") is generally applied to diets that restrict carbohydrates and a Ketogenic Diet (KD, but often called “keto”) is a very low carbohydrate and high fat diet that puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
I stumbled upon Ketogenic and Low Carbohydrate Diets in a round-about way. A friend suggested I try a juice cleanse to detoxify my body. At this point, I wasn't on the juice cleanse bandwagon, but she had recently beat uterine cancer and she swore it would give me the energy I was lacking. It was clear that she really believed in this diet and after what she had just gone through with cancer, who was I to disagree?
The cleanse was structured in a way that only allowed me to eat during a 4 hour window, which I learned was called Intermittent Fasting (IF). After 3 days, I slept great with no hot flashes or anxiety. In fact, I had totally forgotten to take my nightly medication. With this, I researched every Podcast, book and website on this miraculous diet. I soon encountered Megan Ramos of Intensive Dietary Management in Canada (a leading expert in the field of fasting and IF) and she suggested that "going keto" would make my fasting schedule easier to follow.
Asking this 20-year fitness veteran to increase her fat intake was one of the scariest things I had ever heard, so I decided to start with a Low Carbohydrate Diet. I approached it in a scientific way to keep myself accountable and from getting emotional. With my research, I learned I had been doing a "mild" carbohydrate diet (40% of my calories came from carbohydrates) for most of my life and had been doing a "very low" carbohydrate diet (only 10% of my calories coming from carbohydrates) at various stages of my competition diet, so I felt this was something I could successfully do. So, I wrote myself a 4-week meal plan that started with 40% of my calories coming from carbohydrates and finished with 10% of my calories coming from carbohydrates.
Week 1) 40% of 1350 calorie diet = 135g of net carbohydrates/day
Week 2) 30% of 1350 calorie diet = 101g of net carbohydrates/day
Week 3) 20% of 1350 calorie diet = 67.5g of net carbohydrates/day
Week 4) 10% of 1350 calorie diet = 33.75g of net carbohydrates/day
Mind you, my goal for this diet was to control my hot flashes and anxiety due to menopause. I realize that most people embark on a diet to lose weight, but weight loss was the least of my worries at this point. What I found was, 20% of my calories coming from carbohydrates was very easy to do mentally, physically, and socially, plus my hot flashes and anxiety were drastically reduced. I also noticed that my sleep patterns were best when I had no carbohydrates with dinner, so that meant I couldn't have even the tiniest glass of wine with my meal.
Once I reached week 4, I found that only 34 grams of carbohydrates per day was mentally challenging but I had an abundance of energy and I was actually cold; in fact, I had to wear an over-sized sweatshirt around the house and an extra blanket for sleeping! In addition to losing those ridiculous hot flashes, I also lost 3 pounds. But, no matter how good I felt at only 34 grams of carbohydrates per day, it was socially restrictive; I had to be ultra-prepared and had to bring my food with me everywhere (click here for recipes).
Since I reached my end-goal, I didn't feel that I needed to go on a Ketogenic Diet, but I did continue with my research and used the information to create a 6-week meal plan for my clients (click here to purchase). There are several versions of the Ketogenic Diet including:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carbohydrate “refeeds”, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carbohydrate days.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbohydrates around workouts.
High Protein Ketogenic Diet: This is similar to a Standard Ketogenic Diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
Why Keto vs. Low Carb
Although I reached all of my goals without doing a Ketogenic Diet, some people have to take the extra step to jump start their metabolism. By drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and replacing it with fat, the blood sugar and insulin levels lower, and shift the body’s metabolism away from carbohydrates and towards fat and ketones.
Ketone bodies are produced by the liver under the circumstances through fasting, low carbohydrate diets, and prolonged exercise. They are therefore always released into the blood via the liver after the liver glycogen stores have been depleted (these glycogen stores are depleted after about 1-3 days of fasting); this process is called ketosis.
This metabolic state of ketosis allows most cells in the body to use ketone bodies as a source of energy. When there is a limited supply of external energy sources E.g., fasting or carbohydrate restriction, ketone bodies can provide energy for most organs. The shift of the body’s metabolism away from carbohydrates and towards fat and ketones results in reduced body fat, lower blood sugar and insulin is why the Keto Diet has become so popular for weight loss.
Whichever plan you choose, I recommend that you also take a scientific approach; in fact, take it one step further and talk to your physician about getting a physical and full blood panel. In the end, it's your health and your lifestyle that is affected, so only you can choose what diet is best for you.
SAMPLE KETOGENIC MEAL PLAN
2 Turkey Patties
½ cup Brussel Sprouts with 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Chicken Wings with Walnut Sauce
1 cup Cauliflower
2 “Chocolate” bars
1/3 cup Brazil, Pecan or Walnuts
¼ cup Blueberries
(makes 8 servings)
1 lb Ground turkey, extra lean
1 tbsp. Sage, fresh (finely minced or 1 tsp. dried sage, crumbled)
1 tbsp. Green onion, scallion, ramp (finely minced)
1/2 tsp, leaves Thyme, dried
1/2 tsp Granulated garlic
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Red pepper flakes (a pinch, to taste)
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil (you can use coconut oil)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until just combined (over-working the mixture will make the patties tough).
Divide mixture into eight equal servings. Form into 1/2 inch thick patties, set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook patties, four at a time, about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until they are nicely browned and cooked through.
Repeat with remaining patties. Serve.
(for Chicken Wings)
3/4 cup Walnuts (pieces)
1 clove(s) Garlic
1/4 tsp Red pepper flakes
4 sprig Cilantro (coriander)
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/4 cup Chicken broth (stock)
1/8 tsp Saffron
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Coriander, ground
1/4 tsp Fenugreek leaves (ground)
1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
In the bowl of a food processor, add walnut pieces, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and process until mixture is coarsely ground, set aside. Heat chicken broth in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add walnut mixture, saffron, paprika, ground coriander, ground fenugreek and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer sauce for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in raw apple cider vinegar.
Serve sauce at room temperature over chicken wings. Refrigerate remaining sauce in a covered container.
“Chocolate” /Almond Bar
1 tbsp. Cacao powder
1 tbsp. Almond butter
1 tbsp Coconut oil
2 tbsp Monk Fruit
1 tbsp Flaxseed meal (ground)
1 tbsp Chia seeds
Place ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon mixture into 4 equal bars in silicon mold. Set in fridge for 10 minutes
Protein = 66.77g
Fiber = 20.7g
Total Calories =1359.77
(Subtract “Fiber” from the “Carb” line for
Daily Net Carbs)