A few months ago I did a 30 day experiment to try out the ketogenic diet. You may have heard of this way of eating, as it has been gaining a lot media attention recently. I first read about it a couple years ago and thought it sounded way too extreme and restrictive, but after hearing about the amazing results some people have experienced, I decided to do a little experiment.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Eating a ketogenic diet is surprisingly not an especially new idea, as it has been used as a treatment for reducing epileptic seizures for decades. Actually many people are in a state of ketosis naturally overnight. In simplified terms, it is basically a very low carb, high fat diet that results in a shift from using glucose (carbs) for fuel, to using ketones from fat for fuel.. The diet itself looks somewhat similar to a paleo or primal approach, but with an emphasis on extremely low carb intake in order to get into a state of ketosis.
Why try a ketogenic diet?
Well, there are some very interesting reported benefits including reduced hunger, increased energy, increased mental clarity, better mood and weight loss. I was mostly interested in the improvements in mood, mental clarity and energy. I had completed a similar month long experiment last year with a much less strict Paleo style diet and felt great. Since then I had been eating a moderately low carb diet supposedly along the lines of the 80/20 rule. (Eat well 80% of the time and don’t worry about the other 20%). But, as we all know, it is very easy to slip to more of a 60/40…50/50. After a few months with a significant number of not so healthy eating days it was time for a change!
I did a ton of research, figured out my target macros (protein, fat and carb targets) and stocked the fridge appropriately (well my husband did). My plan was to eat a maintenance level of calories and not specifically try for a calorie deficit to lose weight. That being said, I made sure only to eat if I was actually hungry. I went on a fabulous and decadent weekend ladies getaway right before starting – lots of wine, sweets, pastries and staying up late. I wouldn’t say I was at my best come Sunday night! By Monday morning I was feeling super motivated for the 30 day challenge.
I used MyFitnessPal to track my food, which worked well. To be honest, food tracking does start to feel like an onerous and annoying task, especially if you don’t eat the same meals everyday! You really need to pay very detailed attention to keep carbs low enough to stay in ketosis. It was really tough to judge at first, so I was checking carbs on pretty much everything before eating. By the last couple weeks I did have a much better handle on estimating carb intake.
I made myself a page in my planner to keep track of my progress throughout the month. This is totally not necessary if you’re using a food tracking tool, but it did help to keep me accountable (something about seeing it all laid out on one page…). In addition to tracking my macros (protein, fat, carbs), I noted down my weight before, midway through and after. I also made some notes about my mood and energy levels throughout the experiment.
So what was I going to eat? Well let’s start with what I wasn’t going to eat. The main idea is to eliminate sugar, grains, rice and starchy vegetables. (To be honest, I don’t typically eat bread or desserts most of the time anyways, so it wasn’t a huge change on that front.) Fruit was limited to berries in small portions. Fat is the star of this diet, so fatty meats, full fat cheese and dairy, butter, avocado, olives, olive oil and coconut oil were often on the menu. Here are some typical meals:
Breakfast: Tea blended with coconut oil, almond milk, grass fed butter and cinnamon, an omelet with spinach and bacon or cheese.
Lunch: A giant salad with dark greens and low carb veggies, olive oil based dressing, fatty meat or a leaner protein with cheese or avocado, or leftovers from dinner.
Dinner: Broccoli, kale or brussels sprouts cooked in butter or olive oil with a fatty meat or leaner meat with extra fat in the form of butter or olive oil.
Snacks: My hunger was seriously reduced so I didn’t find myself snacking often, but occasionally I would reach for: a small portion of full fat plain yogurt with a few berries and chia seeds or some cheese & dill pickle slices. I also drank tons of water and green tea during the day.
So that was my basic plan – check back next week for more details about my experience and results!
Have you ever tried a 30 day diet experiment? Would you do it again?