As one commenter put it, I’ve cravenly gone “running back to my ‘safe starches'” after experimenting with nutritional ketosis (NK) for a paltry 6 days. After my update last Thursday, I made it one more day and then gave up.
The meal pictured here was the safe starch bomb that rescued me from NK. It was a banana tapioca crepe topped with an entire 10-ounce bag of frozen blackberries cooked in a tablespoon of maple syrup. It was amazing. And it was my second helping, if you couldn’t tell by my soiled plate :)
Here’s what happened.
I felt like ass last week. I thought I’d felt fatigued before in my life, but I was wrong. For 6 days I felt the cold grips of death taking hold of my body. Plus, I’ve never felt so limited and trapped in a diet before in my life, and I’m pretty freaking good at being on restrictive diets.
One commenter said she snacks on bacon grease and butter on this diet. Honestly, kudos to her, but if I did that I think I’d throw up, and either way I can’t do that because I don’t eat butter. So I was at my emotional limit of fat intake at 70+% of my diet. If I could eat cream, butter, or cheese, I may not have felt so limited and bored by my options.
I don’t eat dairy, nuts, seeds, or olive oil (sensitive to all), so my fats were the following.
- Bacon grease
- Coconut oil
- Coconut milk
- Coconut manna
- Any other fat from meat
I ate the following on one typical day.
1 egg with veggies and salsa
3 pieces bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease to cook it all in
2 tablespoons coconut manna
3 oz chicken
3/4 avocado with some salsa
1/2 celery stalk
Very high fat pork chili with some veggies cooked in a tablespoon extra bacon grease
Before bed because I was STARVING
3 tablespoons coconut manna
Calories = 1854 (way more than the 1500 I was hoping for)
Carbs = 57g (a lot of these are from the avocados) = 12%
Fat = 141g = 68%
Protein = 79g = 17%
Once again, I don’t know why these don’t add up to 100%. Thanks, myfitnesspal.com.
Also, while I never did receive my blood ketone strips from Amazon (WTF, Amazon?), I did test myself several times using the urine strips, and I was in the highest level of ketosis – the deepest purple.
How I Felt
- The muscle fatigue was insane. When I finally decided I needed to eat some carbs, I got REALLY tired mashing the ingredients up for my banana tapioca crepe and had to take a couple breaks.
- I didn’t take a shower in the morning once before breakfast because I was sure if I did, I’d pass out from low blood sugar.
- Almost every time I got up from a seated position, my vision would partially black out for a few seconds.
- I started crying for no reason after a few days, and then I started acting “crazy”, as my husband put it – yelling, crying… I was so ANGRY. I haven’t felt like that in a very long time. Sorry, Seth. This was actually the tipping point.
- Working out was out of the question. That’s part of why I felt trapped.
- Nauseous. I was not usually hungry, partly because I was often nauseous.
- My digestion was not working well, after weeks of perfection.
- I did a big workout in the beginning of it (probably a big mistake, but whatever) and I have never been that sore in my life for so many days in a row. I’m not exaggerating when I say that as soon as I ate a little more protein and a lot more carbs, all the soreness went away. It was almost immediate.
- Leg cramps
- Numbness in my fingers
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss at about .5 lbs a day.
It was grim. Maybe I wasn’t eating enough fat, but I don’t know how I would’ve eaten more without literally digging into the bacon grease or tallow, and I won’t do it.
Some people have said this was just the detox period, and if I’d waited it out it’d get better. There’s no part of me that wanted to wait it out – no part of me that wanted to put my life on hold and feel awful for even one more second.
Some said eat more salt. In fact, here’s the comment: “Ketogenic dieters really need to up their salt intake and it’s why in not doing so some fail in their attempts and go running back to their ‘safe starches’…” How would I eat more salt? I was eating incredibly salty foods: salty bacon, salty chili, salty salsa, SALT. I’m not going to take spoonfuls of salt.
Some said I needed to supplement with magnesium, and when I started researching further, it seems a lot of people who are on this diet do just that. That’s what really got me: So if I don’t take this pill, my legs will cramp up? WTF? I’m not doing that when I’ve so easily gotten enough magnesium from food up ’til this point.
Some say in order to not lose weight, I have to eat double my normal calorie intake. I know this isn’t a problem for people who want to lose weight, but I don’t necessarily want to lose weight. I just wanted to see if this diet would improve my health, performance, and/or muscle mass. So somebody please explain to me how, on a diet that makes me lose my appetite, I’m supposed to eat double my normal rations.
Bodybuilders do this diet. However, I realized after scouring their sometimes ridiculous forums (one guy’s profile pic was a pornographic photo of a woman’s ass) that they do the diet cyclically: ketosis during the week, and binge on the weekends to get glycogen stores back up so they can work out again. Alternatively, they increase their carb intake before and after a workout in order to keep their glycogen up. Otherwise, you’re warned that you’ll feel fatigued and you’ll need coffee to get you through your days.
I don’t have the time or patience for either of those methods. I’d feel schizophrenic going in and out of ketosis every week, and the other method means I could never do a spontaneous workout without destroying my already delicate adrenals with a can of Sugar Free GoFast (does that exist?). No, thanks.
Dr. Peter Attia, nutritional ketosis endurance athlete extraordinaire, eats Super Starch before his big workouts. Even when he doesn’t do that, he sometimes eats way more than the 30-50g of daily carbs that many NK proponents stand by. Dr. Peter Attia really confuses and impresses me, though: he was one of the few motivators I had to NOT quit. He does a lot of endurance work on NK, and even though he eats the Super Starch, etc., he’s still way below a normal endurance athlete’s carb intake. Maybe I did just need to push through and see if I could be like him.
Then I came to the conclusion that men are superior to women and I shouldn’t waste my time.
All kidding aside, I’ve always wondered if men are better at not being hypoglycemic than women. It would make evolutionary sense, since in hunter gatherer groups, men are often out hunting – and often unsuccessfully – while women were reliably pulling up roots and gathering other sources of carbs. Who knows.
I know that Brian MacKenzie, one of the coaches at CrossFit Endurance, uses NK with his long distance athletes. I’m interviewing him tomorrow, so I’ll ask him why I couldn’t even get off my couch, much less do a 100-mile bike ride on NK.
In conclusion, nutritional ketosis is not for me at this time.
And I don’t intend to try it again anytime soon. Yes, I fully admit that I may have been doing it wrong, that I may not have known exactly what I was getting into, etc. You can criticize me to your heart’s content in the comments below; I’m emotionally stable now that I’m eating carbs, so I can handle it :)
While nutritional ketosis is not for me, I’m hypothesizing that this diet is way better for people who need to lose weight and have ample stored fat to burn as fuel. Because it does work for people – don’t let my experience dissuade you from trying it yourself. It might be better for people who can eat dairy, too, so you have more options. It’d also be easier for people who don’t work out, or who are willing to cease working out for the first couple weeks. If you’re a person who does want to work out and do this diet for getting-ripped purposes, here’s a really good article on why and how to do it cyclically.
As for me, I worked out the day after I started eating carbs and I felt strong again. My weight already went back up to normal. I’m doing another super hard workout today and I’m excited to see if my recovery time improves. AND I took a shower this morning without any threat of passing out!
If it ain’t broke…