I celebrated my first Father’s Day last weekend with a 48 hour fast. I still know how to party!
My goal was to experiment with the ketogenic diet, which is said to have numerous benefits including weight loss, inflammation reduction, cancer management / prevention and improved mental clarity / performance. I am lucky to not suffer from any major known ailments, but I wanted to give it a try as I’ve learned deeply over the past few years that I am truly what I eat and the idea of a “self clean” cycle is quite appealing. I cut out gluten in 2014, dairy in 2016 and, well I guess now “food” in 2017. I kid, a bit.
Ketosis or “keto” is a metabolic state where you body turns fat > ketones > energy, instead of the more modern use of carbohydrates > energy. You can enter a ketogenic state by either truly fasting or tricking your body into thinking it’s in a fasted state. You do the latter by consuming ~75% of your calories from fat, ~20% from protein and ~0-5% from carbohydrates. With these macro ratios, you can stay in a state of ketosis indefinitely.
Proponents of ketosis argue that the human body evolved – and thrived – in a state of feast and famine, which is quite opposite to today’s super consistent / available / non-seasonal calorie bonanza.
Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines
I prepared for my keto experiment by enjoying a low carb, high protein, high natural wine dinner on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, I treated myself to a few coffees blended with coconut oil and medium chain triglyceride (MTC) oil.
The fast went surprisingly well. Only at 4p on day two was I slightly bothersomely hungry, and that passed within an hour. I limited my physical activity, but felt good and slept well.
I entered at ketogenic state (as measured by urine test strips) mid-day day one, with my ketone levels increasing throughout the fast.
For day two dinner, I broke my fast with a dinner of fatty bacon, mixed in with summer squash and mushrooms. Not bad at all. I thew in a ‘ dessert’ of coconut milk, avocado and a half packet of stevia (gross by darn my sweet tooth).
My break-fast mealThe amount of fat required to maintain keto is daunting. Especially as our modern western brains attempt to unpack all of the “low fat” marketing that clogs the airwaves. As I entered ketosis, I became keenly aware of all of the high sugar products marketed to us – ice cream, burgers, breads. I wanted them badly! I think the key is maintaining a diversity of lipids. Olive and coconut oils are saving my ass, especially as I find ghee a turn-off (must be from my dairy-free palette). Nuts – macadamias are the best combo of fat minus carbs – also help out a bunch. And the coffee delivery method is key – my morning recipe is 1tsp MCT oil, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tbs ghee and a pinch of cinnamon. Delicious.
I began exercising day three and felt great. A short HIIT run felt better than average. There is research indicating that oxygen efficiency is boosted in keto. Divers particularly enjoy keto as it greatly increases their dive and breath holding times. Strength training felt good, perhaps because it felt good to move after a few days of fasting.
It’s been a less than a week, but here are some of the notable takeaways:
- I feel pretty fantastic. Euphoric really. That’s awesome
- My energy has been very good, and constant throughout the day
- My skin has improved. Sugar starvation is great for inflammation, including breakouts
- I’m rarely hungry
However, it’s nearly impossible to eat out (“I’ll have your fattiest steak please, with a side of olive oil” has been said more than once this week) and my cooking options are quite limited. As some of who loves food / cooking / taste diversity this is a problem. It’s also a bit painful to remove even more from my diet, especially after already maintaining a gluten and dairy free lifestyle.
All in all, I’m super pleased with this experience – both the fasting and the state of nutritional (non-fasting) ketosis. I’d like to continue to experiment and practice both in the future and add them to my toolset when I need a boost or change of pace. I’m already thinking about the following regimens:
- Keto Mornings: eat early the night before (6p) and mini-fast until lunch the next day, with only a MCT/coconut oil coffee in the AM. (2x a week)
- Keto Quick-Weeks: fast Sunday PM – Monday AM, and then do strict keto through Wednesday / Thursday. (1x a month – 1x a quarter)
My thinking here is that a break from our carb driven diets has to the a helpful change of pace for our metabolisms. The euphoria is a nice bonus too!
This meal meets the appropriate ratios. Watch out for those tomatoes! Carbs are hidden everywhere, sigh.
- Dr. Dom on Tim Ferriss. Even though Dr. Dom’s built like a linebacker, he’s done some of the most thorough metabolic research in the business. The links in the podcast’s ‘show notes’ are excellent.
- Carb Counting Spreadsheet. Good reference. You will google a lot on ketosis, and often find yourself disappointed. “brussels sprouts have 1.8g net carbs! man!”)
- Ruled.Me. Great overall resource, including this veggie guide.
- Keto SubReddit. Dig carefully.
- Eating Academy. The hard science.