The Keto Experiment - Week 4

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It’s over! -

It’s been 5 loooong months of keto! Okay, well, it was actually just 4 weeks, but it felt like 5 months! We intended to end our keto experiment on Friday (today), however, we were both so irritable Monday night that we decided carbs were immediately necessary if our marriage were to survive. Seriously. 4 weeks of carb deprivation takes hangry to an entirely new level. I feel it’s only fair to mention that PMS may have had something to do with our early break from keto Monday night.

Breaking the carb-fast -

Our day started rough with interrupted sleep and snippy arguments. We both had stressful work days and were suuuper irritable. We got home and looked at our keto meal prep and JUST COULDN’T! Keto just pushed us to an edge. I jokingly suggested we end our experiment and Aaron lit up and said “I think this is something we have to do to save our marriage”. We contemplated so many foods to break the carb-fast as we got the kids ready for bed, ultimately, our options were VERY limited as we live in a small town that doesn’t appreciate good food and we wouldn’t be in the city again until the next morning. In a moment of brilliance I shouted out “curly fries and a jamocha shake!” to which Aaron, very seriously replied, “I love you”.

We put the kids to bed and Aaron hit the Arby’s drive through. We sipped jamocha shakes and ate curly fries and it was glorious! The next day we readjusted our macros back to normal, skipped the cheesy egg breakfast in favor of our usual protein shake, and then went on an all-out carb BINGE after we finished at the gym. We had delicious ramen and chased it with gourmet cookies with the kiddos. Life. Is. Good.

The next day we hit up the ramen bar and got gourmet cookies. We worked on our lemon ricotta pancake recipe (coming to the blog soon!). While the binge was much needed and, I’ll admit, pretty fun, we’re back under control!

Recap -

We gave keto a solid try for 4 weeks with our primary intention being use of a high fat/low carb diet as potential nutrition therapy for Aaron’s cluster migraines. Since Aaron was giving it a go I thought I’d jump on board for support, and also to use myself as a keto guinea pig as it seems to be all the rage. I had a biased opinion going in that I didn’t think it was sustainable to something I’d do well with but I wanted to have an open mind especially with the potential as nutrition therapy for Aaron. So, with that being said, here’s what came out of it:


Headaches:

Aaron’s headaches appeared to be unaffected - the week preceding keto he had 3 migraines. Week 1 he had 0. Week 2 he had 4. and Week 3 + 4 he had 0. We might need a longer experimental window to know for sure, but from the time we WERE on the diet, there was no significant change.

Weight:

This is the main reason MOST people opt for a ketogenic diet, so while not our intent, I feel it’s important to share these details.

I lost 3lbs the first week, and then gained all 3lbs back over the following weeks. I saw a slight decrease in my body fat % and an increase in lean mass. I’m attributing all of these changes to 3 factors:

  1. Every 1 gram of carbohydrate requires 3-4 grams of water to process and store it. When you start consuming nothing but high fat/low carb meals, your body becomes depleted of carbohydrate-based fuels AND the water that goes with them. The weight I lost was most definitely water weight.

  2. I was eating a higher amount of calories compared to my pre-keto macro plan. With how calorie dense keto meals/snacks are, I found I had to increase my overall caloric intake in order to feel satisfied. Some of the weight I gained back after the water weight fall off is probably due to that increase.

  3. Kicking my own butt at the gym everyday. I’ve been really pushing myself at the gym to lift heavier and go harder. I’m feeling stronger and more stable and I think I am, very slowly, building my little muscles.

Aaron lost 10lbs steadily over the first 2.5 weeks and then stabilized. I’m going to go ahead and say half of that was likely water. While his pre-keto diet was clean, fairly balance, and healthy, he had been taking a break from tracking. In his case keto got him tracking again and reigning in his caloric intake a bit. His keto macros put him in an ovreall deficit which I think contributed to his loss.

As someone who has tracked macros with standard targets and keto targets, I can definitely say tracking with standard targets is more effective for my body leaning out and easier in general. I also feel better eating balanced macros.

Focus and Hulk-like energy:

One of the huge benefits the keto-lovers taut is an increase in mental focus and a physcial energy increase. I honestly don’t think I felt a drastic change in energy. My workouts felt about the same. In terms of mental focus, my brain started feeling foggy around week 2 and never really recovered. I had the hardest time focusing which is a huge issue for me! I work in biotech and need my brain!

Aaron felt really strong at the gym, he was lifting heavier and felt solid! His body seemed to be digging the whole keto thing much more than mine!

Adverse side effects:

Neither one of us experienced the knockdown that some describe as the keto-flu, however, we were irritable throughout the entire keto experiment due to the restriction it required! Not only did keto limit the foods we could eat, the food being so calorie dense made things pretty tough. There’s no snacking on keto, not really. Even snacking on fruit/veggies isn’t worth it because you can’t sacrifice the carbs! We also found that going out to eat or eating on the go without prepped meals was very difficult, especially for me since I only eat chicken and turkey when it comes to meats so I couldn’t just get a bun-less bacon cheese burger like Aaron. The end of week 1 did give us keto breath which was unpleasant but didn’t last, or maybe we just got used to it…gross. Around week 3 I started to notice that my sweat really smelled, it was pretty bad. I hope that goes away quick!

Unexpected:

On week 3 of our keto experiment, Aaron’s work had a health fair that offered fasting triglyceride testing, it was free and we were curious how keto might impact our numbers so we signed up! Aaron’s numbers look phenomenal, so much so that the tech running his sample started asking him questions about his lifestyle! Mine would, of course, be just as amazing, right?! WRONG! My cholesterol was absolute garbage. I workout daily, eat clean healthy food, and health is a huge focus so I couldn’t believe it. Working in science I immediately questioned the qualifications of the instrument, surely this machine just hadn’t been under quality control! So, I went to my doctor for a fasting panel as a follow-up. I got my results back a few days later and my numbers were the SAME! I couldn’t believe it! I had let her know about our keto experiment but she said it takes 3-6 months for a dietary change to have an effect on cholesterol. My grandfather had his first heart attack at 40, several following that, a quadruple bypass, and ultimately died from congestive heart failure, my dad also has high cholesterol and some heart rhythm issues. Had we not been experimenting with this style of eating, I never would have gone to that health fair, and it would have likely been a few years before I found out my cholesterol was dangerously high. Due to the family history, we’re now taking precautions to protect my heart so I suppose I should that keto for that!

Overall opinions -

Keto is not for us, not long term. The benefits/potential benefits just don’t outweigh the grumpiness and constraint we felt eating this way! While I can see why some people might really love this way of eating, I much prefer a more balanced macro approach.

I do feel like there was a lot of value in learning how to cook really low carb though! Even when tracking with standard macros you can get to the end of the day and have a weird balance of macros left and I feel like being limited on carbs taught me how to get more creative with food. We also discovered a bomb keto cheesecake recipe the final week! We could never afford the fat from it on standard macros, but I was very grateful for it when we were struggling in those final days.


What’s next? -

These past few weeks have really made me appreciate balanced macros. We’ve got a trip to Costa Rica coming up in a month so I adjusted my macros back to normal and put myself in a slight deficit from my keto-targets in hopes to lean out just a bit before we go. While I plan to train and stay active on vacation, I also plan to eat all the things and enjoy every moment of it! Once we’re home from the trip I want to move into a very slow reverse diet which is a really cool topic I intend to cover here on the blog is MUCH greater detail soon! In the meantime, send me any macro related questions you have and I’ll make sure they get covered!!!

I hope you all enjoyed following along on our keto experiment!