"A new me in 2023!"
With January nearly here, it's soon to be that time of year when gym memberships rise, supplement factories can't crank'm out fast enough and, you may not believe it, but the poultry industry even sees a spike in the month of January because, well . . . "chicken!"
Back in 2018, which was when I first started writing about my personal KETO journey, I have been getting a lot of questions about how to get started with KETO. First, please allow me to disclose that I do not practice CLEAN (strict) KETO . . . for me personally, DIRTY (cyclical) KETO works best.
I'll explain further in this blog-post, but first, my disclaimer -- please check with your healthcare practitioner because not every experience is the same. Not every body is the same. Be sure you have support from your MD before you start any plan of any kind.
How I started . . .
I fasted from solid food for two days. I drank tons of water as it forced my body to burn through all of its available remaining carbohydrates. This is an excellent way to kick-start your body into ketosis and the energy you feel will boost your motivation forward.
Tip: I bought Suja's "Lemon Love" water and drank about 8-10 of these a day to help with the cleansing process. You could make this recipe yourself at home but at nearly $5 bucks a bottle getting these already prepared was well worth it. I got my stock of these babies at Whole Foods in Fayetteville, AR. I switched back to only water, coffee and tea on Day 3 and didn't drink Suja after Day 2.
I stocked my pantry with plenty of keto-acceptable foods so that I was fully prepared to start prepping and eating solids again on Day #3. Also, when I first started KETO in 2018, I started CLEAN (strict) KETO:
I Did Not Eat
Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal
Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup
Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges
Tubers – potato, yams
What I Did Eat
Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs
Leafy Greens – spinach, kale
Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower
High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter
Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds
Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol or monk fruit
Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats
Next, I took some time to rid the kitchen of non-keto foods. Chips, snacks, popcorn, ice cream, alcohol (yep, alcohol) and then I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app on my cellphone to help me track my macros and food. (read this blog post for information about macros.)
I planned my week of meals so that I was fully prepared at the start of the week and I spent about 2 hours on Sunday preparing and prepping all of my meals for the week ahead. I've done this every Sunday since 2018 and it really helps me with the *secret to it all.* Once you get the hang of your own routine, you'll develop your own combinations of keto-acceptable foods and ratios that are pleasing to your palate and you could get your prepping done in a short 2 hours as well.
TIP: I purchased this cooler bag to stock my daily food intake and I know that when I arrive home at the end of the day, if this cooler is empty, I ate and drank everything that I was supposed to for the day. This bag also helps me with the *secret to it all.*
About one year into KETO, one of the things I started to hear more and more, especially in the gym from other lifters, is that I would never get truly bigger or stronger on a diet that's high in fat and low in carbs. They'd say, "Keto simply isn't ideal for weightlifters trying to gain size, strength and definition."
Well, their argument wasn't entirely off base. I was feeling like my food intake and my lifting routine was off and so that was when I made the shift from CLEAN KETO to DIRTY KETO.
The main difference between the two is that CLEAN KETO keeps me steadily in ketosis and DIRTY KETO moves me into cyclical ketosis which is exactly what I need to achieve results.
So what is ketosis?
Ketosis is when you're not relying on sugar or carbs for energy but instead you are relying on fat. Ketosis is actually a normal process that allows your body to keep working even when it isn't getting carbs as fuel. Besides burning body fat, ketosis has wonderful side effects which make you feel less hungry, experience less brain fog and helps to maintain muscle mass.
The whole point of KETO is to flip the switch so that the body does this.
For a person lifting weights on a regular basis with the intent to grow size, strength and definition, some carbs will be needed to produce glycogen (a form a sugar that is stored by the body and used to fuel your muscles.) This is why most treating physicians and personal trainers suggest high-carb diets for athletes.
While I'm certainly no aspiring bodybuilder, I'm happy to be in the the best shape of my life. My personal trainer has me on dirty (cyclical) ketosis and you know what, I'm seeing results.
Until now, most studies have concluded that you top out at around 10% of energy recruited from fat and for the rest you rely mostly on glycogen, a form of sugar stored in your muscles and liver. That’s the main reason high-carb diets have been the standard for athletes for so many years. With a low-carb diet, the fear is that your glycogen stores will empty quickly, you will run out of fuel, and you are then going to start breaking down your muscles for energy, but this is not entirely true if you teach your body to prefer fat for fuel over carbs.
I work out five days per week, and two of those days are with my trainer. This is when we kick up the intensity levels without any problems.
A groundbreaking new study out of UConn found that low-carb endurance athletes perform just as well as high-carb endurance athletes, if not better. The results of this study challenge the 50 years of research telling us the very opposite.
Half of the participants ate low-carb (<20% of calories from carbs) for 6 months, the other half ate high-carb (>55% of calories from carbs) for 6 months.
On test day, athletes ran for 3 hours. The researchers measured the runners’ energy expenditure and gathered blood, muscle tissue, saliva, and a variety of other samples. They then pieced everything together to better understand what each group was burning for fuel, and how hard they had to work.
The results were impressive. The ketogenic runners showed (to quote the lab techs) “extraordinarily high rates of fat oxidation.”
In other words, the low-carb athletes were fat-burning machines. They recruited tremendous amounts of energy from fat during the 3-hour run and showed no more fatigue than the high-carb runners did. What’s even more fascinating is that both groups had the same muscle glycogen levels during and after exercise, and they weren’t breaking down their muscles to do it.
In other words, a ketogenic diet can help you.
For me, my body now understands that in order to operate, it must find sugar and when there is none coming in (via carbs) then find fat and burn fat for fuel. It takes time to teach your body this which is why *the secret to it all* is so important but when you do, it will feel great.
The study was so impressive that the lead author said that several of the high-carb ultra-marathoners that participated in the study switched over to a low-carb diet after seeing how well the ketogenic participants performed.
While we all can attest that it’s easy to get caught up in ratios and percentages when you’re eating low-carb, please remember that we all have different genetic backgrounds, and you very well may find that cyclical ketosis works better for you (like it does for me) rather than being in ketosis all the time.
I build size and strength using cyclical ketosis which is basically five days of low-carb, then two higher-carb days. The two higher-carb days are the days that I am taking training to the next level with my trainer in the gym attacking both compound exercises for multiple muscle groups and whole body workouts to blast the entire body all at once.
Whatever works for you, be sure to listen to your body and focus on how you feel and play around with the fat-to-carb ratio until you find something that works for you.
Lastly, eating testosterone-boosting foods during the week has been invaluable for me.
It truly helps that I love everything listed here, and the items listed here are also satiating and flavorful which makes eating them that much more enjoyable. It also doesn't feel like work; or like I'm sacrificing anything.
*The Secret To It All*
KETO, albeit DIRTY or CLEAN, if done consistently can upgrade your biology and actually change your DNA. (but more on that in another forthcoming blog-post.) Cheating with food and beverage or breaking the consist menu or simply not being prepped and prepared can derail. Without proper planning and consistency, you'll be tempted to impulse buy and eat. I refuse to go into a new day without my full cooler of food and beverages prepped and ready because if I just get in the car without my cooler, then I stop at restaurants, cafes, gas stations, etc. and impulse eat all day and that breaks the consistency cycle and negates all the work in the gym.
So, push ahead in 2023 and elevate your KETO journey by adopting a new plan fueled with consistency. It is the secret ingredient to most every plan.❤️