The Keto Experiement - Week 1
I never thought I’d be saying this but…I started keto!
Keto is all the rage right now and I honestly had no intention whatsoever of venturing down this road. I’ve reconciled my restrictive eating ways, I worked hard to heal my metabolism through reverse dieting, I found macro counting and accepted carbs into my life…I was SOLID! I’ve heard about keto from friends, insta, etc but it seemed like a fad and I never really felt comfortable about the idea of cutting entire nutrient categories, especially carbs, out of my life. And when I say cutting out nutrient categories makes me uncomfortable I really mean I’ve kinda been adamantly against it. For me, keto conversations were mostly a “you do you”… But…this last week, all of that changed.
Let me explain!
Why the sudden change of heart? -
Most of you know my husband and I both work in biotech and studied chemistry so we’re all about backing up what we do with solid scientific studies. Aaron has been a long-time migraine sufferer, and I’m not talking any kind of reasonable headache here, I’m talking aura, loss of vision, loss of facial recognition, slurred speech, alien limb, freak-your-wife-out CRAZY migraines. He sees a neurologist, he’s on preventative and as needed meds, and tracks episodes and circumstances to identify potential triggers but he still falls into clusters from time to time.
We’ve been macro tracking for over a year and have noticed he’s entered into multiple migraine-cluster phases when he’s not tracking or consuming higher carbs. So, last week when Aaron was in the midst of clustering again, he started digging a bit and came across studies utilizing low carb-high fat (keto) diets as medical nutrition therapy for epilepsy AND THEN he found this study on patients with cluster-migraines! Patients were on a low-carb/high fat (keto) diet for 12 weeks and average monthly attacks dropped by about 65%. That’s significant! Now I will say migraines are not super well understood, and neither is the application of nutrition therapy to treat them, however, this is a pretty simple non-invasive option for potentially helping so it got us looking at keto a lot more seriously.
While I’m not migraine afflicted, it’s much easier for Aaron and I to stay on track with macros if we’re both counting together and eating the same foods so naturally, if he was taking this plunge, so was I.
More science -
Looking at keto from a biological standpoint also peaked my interest. The idea behind the diet is that you’re reducing carbohydrates, the body’s preferred fuel source, and instead providing a steady influx of fat. The body burns through it’s glycogen stores for glycolysis within the first few days and then is forced into ketosis utilizing fat for fuel. Fat is metabolized and ketones are produced. So, that’s kinda neat. Over time, the body becomes fat adapted offering additional metabolic flexibility.
As someone who works in science, I always find it interesting how much we study the human body and how little we know about how nutrition affects us. The body is such an intricate system with so many biochemical pathways! I think this diet is most intriguing as a science experiment using myself as the guinea pig! I really love trying new things that are drastically different from my normal and seeing how I feel, how performance changes, etc.
Getting started -
From researching, to committing and taking action literally happened in just a number of hours. Luckily I have friends already deep into the keto life, so I tapped into their knowledge to help us get started. We re-calculated our macro targets using this site, keeping protein a bit on the high side (because precious gainz), gathered some recipes and eating tips, and hit costco!
Prep is key when it comes to macro tracking, and keto is just macro tracking with shifted targets so the next day we meal prepped turkey taco bowls, chicken alfredo with zoodles, and made our first fat bombs (so tasty!). We set out a daily meal plan so we could be sure to stay on track. We also bought some urinalysis ketone test strips to check our progress.
How we’ve felt -
We’ve read, and been warned, about the keto-flu so we were gearing up for body aches, digestive issues, hunger, and zero energy, however, we really haven’t been feeling that! Day 5 we both felt like we didn’t have the energy to get through our workouts and Aaron felt totally wiped out by the end of the day on days 5 and 6 buuuut daylight savings also went down this week so I’m not sure where to place my blame.
On day 4 we started testing for ketones using the urinalysis strips. I tested in at the “moderate” range, Aaron was only at trace. This led to him adjusting his macros a bit futher, reducing protein (he was originally keeping this on the high side to try to preserve muscle) and boosting fat. The following day he tested his result showed “moderate”. We’ve both maintained at the “moderate” level through to the end of the week. It’s my understanding that the ketones in the urine disappear as the body becomes “fat adapted” and is able to utilize those ketones for fuel. We’ll keep monitoring to see if things begin to shift.
On day 6 we wanted to go to lunch but it’s definitely tricky going out to eat and finding clean keto-friendly meal options. I checked nutritional facts for Zupas and their creamy soups are kinda perfect! We opted to split a chicken salad with no dressing and each got a large bowl of Wisconsin cauliflower soup (86g of fat!).
I don’t feel super deprived not having carbs in my life right now, although, I do miss habitual things like Friday-Chai day. We’re also trying to be really mindful of our micronutrients in addition to our macros as we don’t want to crash out after just a couple weeks. We’re trying to make sure the carbs we are consuming are from leafy greens, veggies, and fruits.
Weight changes (because I know you all wanna know)-
I lost 2 pounds in the first 5 days but by day 7 one of them came back. There an initial loss of water weight as your body burns up all the glucose you had from your previous carby ways. That being said, my body fat was down .5% by the end of the week.
Aaron is down 3 pounds overall and hasn’t measured body fat yet.
I’m still very unsure about this diet in terms of using it lean out. Yes, it can help people lose weight, I’ve seen lots of evidence of that but I’ve seen far less evidence for how it affects individuals who already ate a very balance/clean diet and have a solid gym routine. We have a lot of fear that we’ll be burning up precious muscle. I guess we’ll just have to see how things go.
What worked, and what didn’t?
Meals and snacks-
Zoodles, grilled chicken, and alfredo were awesome to take to work or eat for dinners. It also felt like a more balanced meal brining in some healthy veggies and having something fresh.
We also really liked turkey taco bowls with ground turkey, a chipotle salsa sauce, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Again, it felt fresh and not too heavy.
Creamy soups seem like a killer option too. This week we hit zupas but next week I want to make my own which some veggies!
Cream cheese fat bombs- these help kick those cravings for sweets and are a good fat boost with peanut butter, cream cheese, and swerve sweetener. They were a daily staple.
Eggs, bacon, and cheese - I had two eggs each morning for breakfast and sometimes a slice of bacon. Aaron did the full combo. It can feel a little heavy and has no fresh component so for me, it’s just an okay meal.
Olives- I love olives and my work stocks little bags of green olives with garlic and basil. I loved snacking on these.
Fruit/veggies - We want to get our carbs from good nutrient dense sources so blueberries, blackberries, cucumber, etc. were all nice to snack on.
Oils- I bought avocado oil and found it was convenient to add on top of things if I need to boost the fat content a bit.
What wasn’t so great…
Keto crepes- these are made with vanilla, cream cheese, almond flour, eggs, etc. And that sounds like it would be great! But…the crepes themselves were just kinda okay and then we realized all our normal crepe toppings are pretty carb heavy, fruit, syrup, whipped cream, etc. So…we won’t be making these again.
Oils- Aaron has a pretty intense fat requirement being 6’5 and huge so he found he needed a supplement shake with high fat. We looked at buying one but they really didn’t have much fat to them! So he opted for his standard protein shake spiked with macademia nut oil. This is a really unpleasant tasting shake. It just tastes like oil to me. He’s powering through one each day though and getting his fat so I guess it’s good and bad.
I’m looking forward to finding more recipes this weekend and adding more creativity to our menu.
Now, I do just want to say we don’t plan to do keto for life. This will be something we cycle in for 30 to 90 days and cycle back out of. Aaron came out of his migraine cluster as soon as we started and hasn’t had one in the past 7 days which is promising! It’s likely we’ll go back to standard macros and utilize this from time to time if it seems beneficial.
Have you ever considered trying keto? If you have tried it, how did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have so hit me up!