Summer is slowly moving into sight, joyfully skipping towards us hand in hand with the need to shed some of that excess winter weight, a predicament that many of us find ourselves in this time of year. The likelihood we will see any weather good enough to warrant whipping off the top is, if you excuse the pun, slim but as the old analogy says “fail to prepare and prepare to fail!”
Not wanting to face another summer topping up the still prominent farmers tan, I began cutting back in the last week of March using a long term, sustainable nutrition plan. Progress was slow, but steady as all good weight loss programmes should be and I was averaging just over half a pound a week whilst maintaining, and in some areas, increasing strength. In 6 weeks I went from a weighty 19st 8lbs to a slender 19st 4lbs…happy days!
However, as good as it was to be moving in the right direction I wanted more and I wanted it now! With a “de-load” week starting 7th May there was a window of opportunity to turbo charge the weight loss and so I decided to bring out the big guns….Ketosis!!!
What is Ketosis?
For those of a scientific ilk, there are a number of websites that provide the in depth biochemical breakdown of the process ketosis (Google Search)
ketosis occurs when the glycogen levels in the muscles and liver have depleted, resulting in the body resorting to using ketones for energy. These ketones are a product from the breakdown of fatty acids derived from lipid stores. Put simply the body burns fat for energy.
A state of ketosis is achieved by following a very low carbohydrate diet.
“ahh, the Atkins diet” I hear you say… well yes and no. Ketosis is the driver behind a number of weight loss protocols including the famous Atkins and Dukan diets. It is also used by many fitness athletes and S & C coaches in various guises and this is just my take on it.
Quite simply no carbs! Well within reason. It is practicably impossible to eat zero carbohydrate as berries, vegetables, condiments, sauces etc will contain minimal/trace amounts of carbohydrate so the aim is to eat as little as possible. Personally I have 50g a day of carbohydrate of any type as a maximum, though in reality I will probably only get 30g a day.
Calculating my maintenance calories gives values of 3650-3900Kcal a day, giving a median value of 3800kcal. Therefore, having a daily target of 3000kcal will give a deficit of 800kcal a day, equating to 5600Kcal/week or in terms of fat 1.6lb a week and that is before any additional calories spent through training.
I will try to consume 300g of protein (minimum of 1g per pound of body weight plus some for luck) a day, making up the rest of the calories with fat:
|Calories allowance||Protein||Carbohydrate||Calories to make up|
|3000Kcal –||(300g x 4*) –||(50g x 4*) =||1600kcal|
1600Kcal ÷ 9* = 178g a day of fat max
*1g of protein = 4Kcal, 1g of carbohydrate = 4Kcal, 1g of fat = 9Kcal
For example, a typical days food would be:
- 450g chicken drumsticks
- 200g cheese
- 100g protein powder (low carbohydrate)
- 400g beef chilli
- 100g Peanut butter
- Salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion & pepper)
- Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
- Bucket full of green tea and 3-4 litres water
- Tablespoon of fish oils
Every effort needs to be taken to consume whole foods and avoid processed rubbish which does mean some preparation and foresight is required in preparing food for work or going out etc.
The requirement of fat means that fattier and thus cheaper cuts of meat are ideal, as is mince (beef/lamb/pork), fish, eggs and cheese.
Sausages and burgers can be ok though you will find that the only really suitable ones are the more expensive as the cheaper options are often filled with rusk (carbohydrate) so always look at the label.
Adding flavours is essential to keep meal time interesting and increases the chance of you sticking with the diet, however it is worth noting that many bottled sauces and marinates contain a fair amount of sugar so once more read the label.
Fruit and vegetables can be a little more tricky. Lots of salad is the easiest way, especially with a good blob of mayo or drizzle of dressing. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, suede, courgette, green beans, peas, mushrooms and a little carrot are my usual suspects.
Other than a handful of berries I will steer clear of fruits as most are pretty laden with sugar and dried fruits are a definite no go area – Sultanas have a similar sugar content to “Haribo Star Mix”!!!
It is often a struggle to get enough fat throughout the day so when needed I will cook with excess butter, eat some nuts/peanut butter and best of all, add some double cream to a protein shake!
The first week of the diet coincided with my scheduled de-load week. Lifting at only 60% of maximum, I was unable to notice any detrimental effects on my training. However, the second week was back to 100% and, although only doing three sets of 4 reps on the major compound lifts, the training felt noticeable harder and the results showed that I had effectively lost 1-2 reps on each lift. I was expecting a greater loss in strength so I took this as a positive.
I started the diet on Tuesday 8th May. The first two to three days everything felt as normal as the body continued to run off the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver (approx 2000-3000Kcals worth in someone of my size). By the end of day three (around 6pm!) the glycogen was depleted, something I could physically note by the “hitting the wall” feeling and a huge craving for anything sweet. Battling through this for an hour or so whilst munching on a steak with pepper sauce the body entered a state of ketosis and I emerged out of the other side feeling amazing! For the following 8 days the feeling of being full of energy remained with me as I went about everyday tasks, only feeling slightly sluggish during training sessions after the first 15 to 20mins
My diet has not included much in the way of carbs for a number of years, mainly due to my fat tendencies, so sticking to strict very low carbs comes quite easily and when combined with a love of cooking the I found the whole experience to be quite enjoyable.
After this time the energy within the muscles is used up and is slow to replenish due to the ketosis reaction being slower than the equivalent breakdown of glycogen. This could have been avoided by eating a good spoonful of coconut oil prior to training as the fatty acids within it can be used directly by the body without breaking it down first, but I didn’t have any!!!
Following 11 whole days on the diet, approximately 8 of which would have been in Ketosis the results were as follows:
|Weight||19st 2lb||18st 8lb||-8lb|
|Body Fat (approx)||20%||17%||-3%|
Considerable fat loss in a short space of time is what everyone wants right?! I found it easy and a great way to shed the flab quickly with results that speak for themselves, but before everyone throws away the bread, rice and potatoes and makes a bee line for the butcher you might want to consider a few things:
- Firstly and most importantly, for most people this sort of diet is unsustainable. This diet means you have to forgo a lot of the nice little things we like to eat. Bread, pasta, sweets, ice cream, pastries… I could go on, and going to a restaurant can be an onerous task. As strong as your will power may be, eventually you will crack and any sustainable diet should not exclude those little treats once in a while. I see it more as a tool to call upon for short durations of up to two weeks when those love handles require a bit more than gentle persuasion to vacate the area!
- You need a strong will power.
- You need a basic understanding of nutritional make up of food stuffs.
- You need time and foresight to prepare food, it is difficult to find the appropriate sort of foods when you are out and about.
- An understanding partner – eating in this way can really annoy those around you!
I will certainly be calling upon ketosis again when the need arises but until then I will continue to experiment with more sustainable protocols…watch this space!