After coming to some rough realizations about what I can realistically expect from my ketogenic diet, I have been doing the best I can (sans weight loss expectations). Overall I’m quite happy with how it has gone and wanted to share my experiences with a few often discussed aspects of a ketogenic diet: Energy, Hunger and Wagons.
Every time someone talks about nutritional ketosis, just going low-carb or full blow ketogenic, they report that they have tons of energy. For me it wasn’t so cut and dry. Even when keto-adapted and with sufficient blood ketones, I still struggle with having enough energy. For example, I just got a new fancy standing desk but many days am too tired to stand for even one hour. Surely part of that is becoming used to standing but when I am too tired to even try… I feel like a wimp. :)
Without a doubt, I have more energy than when not keto-adapted but there is room for improvement. I get as much sleep as my body wants, no set bed-times or alarm clocks for this girl, and that ends up being around 9-10 hours a night. I am no longer restricting calories either. Maybe its those mythical adrenals?
One thing that has helped is switching from working out twice a week to just once a week. My trainer and I are thinking that while I have been able to progressively lift greater weights over the months, my ability to recover from a workout has not increased at the same pace. Another note on the exercise front is that my progress in the gym has neither been harmed nor helped by being in ketosis. I swear I have lazy mitochondria which would explain why my performance is quite lack-luster in either state! :)
Again, most people report no longer being hungry all the time, reduced cravings and even the ability to skip meals. For me, not so much. I still get true hunger 3x a day (about every 4 hours). I still have intrusive thoughts and cravings in between which I know isn’t real hunger but is still effective in getting me off my butt and foraging for a snack…
Some of my worst cravings have subsided now that I am eating higher protein. When I was eating about 0.4g/lb, I was able to get my ketones higher than 1.5 in the morning but the cost was constant, REAL hunger. Now that I get at least 30g per meal, or 0.7g/lb, my fasting ketones are always hovering around 0.5 but a lot of my hunger pangs have subsided. I could play with adding even more but this is how much my body seems to want, adding more just makes me feel barfalicious.
I would love to get to a point where I don’t need to snack. But it isn’t hurting my blood sugar or causing weight gain so… I am leaving well enough alone.
One last “myth” that I hear often is that if you “fall out of ketosis” it will take 2 weeks to recover. Here I am happy to report that this has not been my experience! A few times I have eaten more carbs in a meal than I normally get over the course of 3 days. Sure that knocks my ketones right down to “lo” (and sends my blood sugar soaring), but I have been able to get my ketones back up to “pre-goof” level in 1-2 days.
In August, after my meltdown, I switched from ketogenic to “just” low-carb and was completely out of ketosis for weeks. When I decided that I was ready to give it another go, it only took 4 days.
I am not sure where the 2 week estimate to re-adapt comes from. Maybe because that is how long it can take someone to switch over from a very high-carb diet? Luckily for me, I bounce back much quicker and without any low-carb transition issues.
So how am I doing?
I have gotten to the point where I can maintain my goal blood ketones (0.5) without weighing or tracking my food. My blood sugar is predictable (huzzah!) I can happily wing it at a restaurant or friend’s house and not “ruin everything”. Even if I do indulge in a few extra carbs… or cows, it’s not a big deal and I can move on without guilt since it just takes a day or two to recover.
When I first started, I had to track everything, weigh my protein and purposefully add fat to achieve an adequate blood ketone level. It felt like a lot of work and probably was not something I would keep up forever. Now that my body is adapted (and I have learned what 5oz of pork chop looks like), it seems just as easy as my previous low-carb diet.
In the end, if I can go to the grocery store on autopilot and eat whatever looks good in the house while staying “on diet” then I know it is sustainable.