Keto diet different ways

Not all keto is created equally though every approach shares a common goal: to promote ketosis. There are a few different ways one can “do keto” or live a ketogenic lifestyle. Some people keep steady to just one type consistently. And some individuals move around to follow two or more of these lifestyles form time to time.

The main types of keto are:

The standard ketogenic diet
This is the most common, classic ketogetic diet and what you should start with if a beginner. The basic recipe for a keto is your daily diet is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. With this diet, carbs are limited to 20-30 net grams per day.

Targeted ketogenic diet
This type is similar in form to the standard ketogenic diet but involves targeting your carbohydrate consumption in timing with workouts. Some do fasted workouts prior to any carbohydrate consumption. Others time carb eating right before exercise. This type is best for those who are ‘fat-adapted’ or been following a standard keto diet for some time. That way the body is already used to using fat for fuel and can run on ketones.

High protein ketogenic diet
This type of diet increases protein consumption from the standard ketogenic diet ratios. That looks like your daily calories coming from 65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbs. Typically, those who engage in higher protein diets are doing so to build muscle mass.

Cyclical ketogenic diet
Or keto cycling. This type means cycling in and out of ketosis with some days being lower carb, and other days involving ‘carb-ups’ or higher carb allowances. Most who practice cyclical keto on purpose plan a schedule such as five days keto and two days of higher carb intake. Many (myself included) follow a cyclical ketogenic diet without such purpose because staying strict keto can be difficult unless you plan and measure constantly. Personally, I know I come in and out of ketosis a few times a week but don’t ‘binge’ on high carb foods. So my cycling is more dipping below the standard ketogenic diet ratios every now and then. If I go too far outside the standard ratios, and over-indulge in carbs, I experience inflammation (usually skin, but sometimes in my joints) so try to be as on-the-ball as I can, But the cyclical approach does allow more flexibility and it’s good for those of us (ahm, like me) who deal with disordered eating so can get carried away with measuring, guilt, etc.

Lazy keto
This type of keto follows the standard ketogenic diet but individuals don’t count ratios or amounts that much. Instead, the approach is more about focusing on high-fat, low carb foods in general. Additionally, ‘lazy keto’ or ‘dirty keto‘ can refer to those who eat out a lot and don’t make homemade or fresh foods priorities. It is possible to remain ‘keto’ and eat fast food every day! It is healthy? No, but you can technically remain in ketosis depending on your choices from that drive-thru menu!

Different approaches
Each type of ketogenic lifestyle can be approached in different ways. There’s If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) which means you can eat whatever as long as sticking with your fat, protein, and carb (ie. macro nutrient) goals/ratios. This is definitely a more relaxed approach but can run you into trouble with nutrient deficiencies. There’s the Purist approach which is more methodical and involves staying away from keto ‘junk foods’ in pursuit of whole, nutritious foods. This way can get complicated and pricey. There is also Protein-Sparing which isn’t recommended for many (or for long). It involves keeping your ratios for protein and carbs steady but dropping your fat amount drastically. This can help you break out of a weight-loss stall but can cause your body to burn muscle for fuel instead of fat.

You can also add intermittent fasting to any of these for more variety and added benefits. IF is where you eat only during a specific period of time, your ‘eating window’. The other time you’re not eating or fasting. Most fast overnight while sleeping and into the morning. A typical IF plan is 16hrs fasting and an 8hr eating window. That can look like fasting before bed, starting 8pm and not eating again until lunchtime, say noon or 1pm.

Does all this sound interesting (it does to me!) or too complicated? If the latter, don’t fret because living a ketogenic lifestyle can be approached simply and maintained easily. Unless you want to, just stick to the basics of the standard ketogenic ratios. Once fat-adapted or burning fat for fuel then you can explore different options to meet your needs or goals. Or just keep on keto-ing on!

Video talk on food addiction

Be the buzzkill: Food addiction is just as powerful as drug addiction. This video came up in my YouTube feed because I’m subscribed to YouGotThis aka Dr. Kathleen Hallinan. I encourage you to watch it if you relate at all to food addiction or having little control over food in your life.

The doctor talks about similarities between food addiction and her heroine-addicted patients. She talks about staying away from tiggers for the addictive behavior (incl. people and places). And she talks about denial. It’s a plain but powerful message. As someone who still struggles with food issues I found it hit home on a lot of points.

The point I found most interesting was discussion of the lack of social pressure to reform or heal from food addiction. I find a ketogenic lifestyle keeps me away from my triggers for the most part. And I’m learning so much about nutrition, my body, and my mind. I honestly believe sugar as persistent in our society is evil. But will I always do keto? I’m not sure. But right now it helps me fight my own battles.

Judgement and criticism

I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing judgement, criticism, negative comments, and odd looks when some find out about my ketogenic lifestyle. Some people think it’s okay to care and comment on others’ diets. It likely stems from the same place judgement grows for other alternative lifestyles. Add to the situation that keto has been a hot topic in the media lately and is growing traction. More and more people out there know a little bit about keto and unfortunately that little bit can be negative or just wrong.

You could start by not explaining yourself at all. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you live or what you eat. If you’re in a situation where you feel the need to divulge some reason or info you could simply say you’re cutting out sugar, or cutting back carbs in your diet. Give limited information without adding any of your own commentary. I bet if you follow a ketogenic lifestyle for a while you will stop caring what others think. Thankfully, this is where I am for the most part and have my good results to rely on when others judge.

For those I’m closer with and feel would be open to some respectful discussion, I have gone into more details about my diet, why I decided to try it, and why I’m sticking with it. I talk about my unhealthy relationship with food including binging and hiding food, which was essentially an eating disorder. I had an addition with food and even found benefit in attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I’ve used the comparison that you wouldn’t say to someone with an addition to alcohol, “oh, just have a sip” or “one drink won’t kill you.” Same should go for someone in my situation but yet I have heard “just have a taste” or “treats like a cupcake or cookie are what [insert holiday or celebration] are all about!” Sometimes people honestly don’t realize how hurtful or triggering their comments can be to someone dealing with such issues.

Finally, if you get the nerve to just be brutally honest, you can give as good as you get. I don’t suggest being snarky but hold your ground. If someone says, “oh, I could never give up bread because it’s so good” tell them that no doubt, traditional bread, pasta, beer, etc. are delicious but your health is more important than a sub-set of delicious foods. There are plenty other delicious foods which you’ve found to not aggravate your inflammation, obesity, diabetes, depression, hormones, etc. If someone says flat out that keto is unhealthy then you could argue with them but I doubt it will be useful. Engaging with someone who who already has their mind made up or isn’t open to learning something is a waste of time. I’ve found it best to say something like, “we’ll have to agree to disagree,” and know they are as entitled to their opinion and behavior as you are to yours.

Now, I totally understand this judgement goes both ways. Search about keto online and there are countless articles, blogs, videos, etc. telling everyone that this is the the way to go. Do I personally think a low carb, high fat diet would help many, many people? Yes. But I’m not going to pew pew anyone for how they chose to live their life. I’m here if anyone wants resources, to chat, to learn about my experience, etc. But I’m not badgering anyone to adopt keto. It’s not ‘my way or the highway’!

We need more acceptance in this world. I don’t comment much in online forums, but I recently felt compelled to make a comment when I disagreed with something – from the great Dr. Berg no less. On a recent Instagram story, Dr. Berg recounted seeing a family in a restaurant when a mother gave a young child juice in a bottle. He urged people to not do this, and (this is what made me concerned) to step in and say something to any mother who gives their child high-sugar food so they could be educated about sugar’s negative effects. I commented and said something along the lines of: please do not encourage shaming mothers because everyone has bad days and moments. That juice might have been the only thing holding everything together that day. I’m a mom and know that sometimes the day, my kid’s behavior, or my sanity can be hanging by one small thread. And it’s not just mothers who have responsibility for nutrition and education in a family so don’t pick on us.

I hope Dr. Berg keeps his up with his teachings and more people do jump on the low sugar train. But please don’t publicly shame someone or get on your high horse to criticize if you see something you don’t agree with. Kids are given sugar everywhere including in schools. I argue that we’re all trying to do what’s best for ourselves and our families. It would be amazing to see advocates like Dr. Berg lobby government and industry to change their ways instead of shaming or attacking individuals just trying to live their lives. I’m hugely supportive of not giving kids sugar. But there are times I let my own children have a juicebox or even candy depending on the context because parents need to pick their battles carefully. Or they have rice or such if we’re dining with friends from a different cultural background and higher carb offerings are on the table. I hope public figures in the keto world understand this and use their publicity and knowledge to help us navigate our sugar-laden society better and advocate for bigger changes. Let’s not sink to the level of those who criticize us for following a ketogenic lifestyle. We can act better and smarter. Everyone: please be tolerant of others, lead by example, and petition for change in systems and regulations instead of wasting energy in comments sections or gossiping.

Biohacking: what it is and the keto connection

Many of us practice some sort of biohacking or citizen science but don’t necessarily call it that. Feel a cold coming on so take extra vitamins or an herbal tea? Feel tired so up your hydration and/or caffeine? Those small self-directed additions to your routine are biohacking. It’s figuring out unconventional but natural ways to optimize health, energy, nutrition, fitness, and overall life.

On trend

Often biohacking is now talked about on a larger scale as many labs and researchers are working on realizing new limits of human potential. With social media and other internet resources these individuals can easily share their experiments and findings. It’s easier than ever to communicate results and even start a movement or community. Search for biohacking on reddit and you’ll get pages of forums with individuals all over the world sharing resources and their own experiences.

This recent article by Popular Mechanics magazine showcases several types of biohacking including using cryotherapy and sensory deprivation tanks, as well as nutritional “hacks”. The piece specifically mentions the keto diet, and how it’s being studied for positive effects and protection of the brain. Though the author (who experimented biohacks on herself) also talks about having a hard induction period transitioning to ketosis and that she didn’t stay with keto very long. I want to mention that this piece also discusses intermittent fasting which I’ll get into below in this post.

Search the term biohacking online and the top articles will likely include reference to the keto diet. Using ketones for fuel is a type of biohacking to tap into continuous energy and amazing cognitive benefits.

Bulletproof

A champion for biohacking, Dave Asprey created the Bulletproof company which is arguably responsible for the bulletproof or boosted coffee trend. It’s also a staple for many following a ketogenic diet. The practice generally involves consuming coffee blended with fat. The Bulletproof method involves the company’s own coffee beans, their Brain Octane product (a MCT oil based product), and grass-fed butter. There are skeptics online, and not much academic scientific info available, but the first-hand accounts of doing this are astounding. Personally, I have a boosted coffee most weekday mornings. I put MCT oil, butter or heavy cream, and collagen powder in my mixture. It satisfies me for quite a while and I think it does help with my thinking abilities. I notice negative differences on days when I don’t have this mixture, and I look forward to having it.

Intermittent fasting

The other big biohacking link to the ketogenic lifestyle is intermittent fasting or IF. Many keto folks purposely fast during their day and eat only during a certain ‘eating window’. A popular convention is the 16-8 one whereby a person won’t eat for 16hrs (inclusive of sleeping time) and then have an 8hr window for any food they consume for the day. The main argument for IF is to control insulin levels in the body. So many still consume some things (like water, plain tea) while you fast as long they don’t trigger an insulin response. The academic science AND personal accounts of the benefits of IF are abundant. In my opinion, one of the best description led of IF, its recent rise to fame, and benefits is this Harvard Health Blog post from earlier this year. And I recommend searching YouTube for keto-guru Dr. Berg’s IF videos because he presents a wealth of info succinctly in an easy-to-follow manner.

Like most other aspects of a ketogenic lifestyle, intermittent fasting goes against conventional health advice. Aren’t we supposed to eat ‘a balanced diet’ and have three meals with snacks in between? I don’t believe so anymore!

Personally, I try to do IF most days but have mixed results. I find my success depends on what I’m doing (and likely thoughts I’m having), and what I ate before fasting. I’m feeling better and better each day, but am still working through decades of food issues and metabolic damage (separate blog post on that to come!). Getting better or more sustainable at IF is one of my goals this year.

Do you biohack?

So do you do any sort of biohacking to optimize health or performance? I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing at first when starting a ketogenic lifestyle. But I’m fascinated with the topic now!

Good read: Sugar’s Sick Secrets

I want to share articles and other good reads I find which highlight or discuss topics related to my own site’s main themes.

This good read article is called Sugar’s Sick Secrets and details work by researchers at UC San Francisco. It talks about trends in diseases and health troubles linked to overconsumption of sugar.

It makes a comparison between food policies, behavior, and marketing. Smoking was once the norm just as eating sugar-laden foods is currently our norm.

—-

The article also discusses evidence of the sugar industry funding research which set the course for our society’s obsession with everything low fat (but increasing sugars and carbs in food options).

This is a good read for anyone, but especially so if you’re interested in a low carb diet or ketogenic lifestyle.

Questioning conventional healthcare: advocating for yourself and doing your own research

I saw a post on keto-advocate Dr. Ken Berry’s Instagram page recently that rang true with me. It was a quote from Dr. Marcia Angell: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. “

This quote is from Dr. Angell’s review ‘Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption‘ which is about big pharma and unethical trends in the medical community in America. It’s a fascinating but terrifying read. Where I live in Canada, we like to think things are in a better state of affairs but I can attest to the presence of lazy doctors (and/or they’re overworked and burned out) and a system of apathy. Conventional medicine looks to treat a symptom. From my own journey to help health issues, and through my own research related to keto and nutrition, I’m realizing that functional medicine with a holistic approach is my preference.

I have found more benefits being my own advocate and researching issues and solutions than talking to doctors or nutritionists. The book Undoctored by William Davis is a good read if you’re interested in all this. But even here I urge caution as this doctor is also selling a product. You need to trust your gut and go with the information that will serve you. Leave behind anything that doesn’t sit well with you.

When I first started a ketogenic lifestyle I came across more nutritional and health information than ever before. It’s amazing how much information is out there if we just want to look for it. And it takes so little effort now to look. Information is at our fingertips in the blink of an eye. All you have to do is go forward with an open mind, yet keep vigilant regarding the quality of the info and credibility of the source. Keep your wits about you and you’ll have a wealth of information in no time. And soon, in the not too distant future, there will be no stigma for Googling symptoms or seeking healthcare info online. In fact, Google has set up its own healthcare division with plans to utilize artificial intelligence to help individuals prevent, detect, and treat health issues.

Technology should be working for us and making our lives better. With a smart phone you can be a citizen scientist, journalist, photographer, writer, travel advisor, etc. So many people are already acclimated to looking for answers online. Need directions? Or product recommendations? Or parenting advice? Google it. There are videos, blogs, forums, reviews, pins, tweets, you name it. The internet has made all our experiences accessible and anyone can share their story or expertise. Plus you can access online teaching, courses, academic writing, library catalogs, and legit sources more readily than ever before.

It used to be that health advice came from controlled clinical trial or study results. These were written in an inaccessible way or with a narrow scope. Results were only available to those privileged ‘in the know’ medical professionals. Which in turn didn’t allow for much analysis or commentary.

But now, the internet provides an abundance of first-hand real-world experiences. We are telling our own stories. And although these accounts are not controlled studies with sound scientific methods they do offer us unprecedented access into others’ experiences with products, techniques, diets, programs, etc. A Reddit discussion becomes a case study, or an article’s comments section offers debate of different perspectives or experiences.

The internet is flooded with citizen science health and nutrition information. Trust me, I know a lot of it is bunk and you’ve got to weed through the garbage to find relevant and credible info. But I do believe group-sourcing and doing your own research is extremely useful. You need to be your own advocate and educate yourself. Doctors and other medical professionals are not all-knowing beings. They are human and fallible just like the rest of us. Our systems are broken so they’re overworked, and there’s too much influence from businesses and those with unethical agendas. Think for yourself and question what you’re told. It might save your life.

Previewing Canada’s new food guide

The other day I saw a news article about the ‘new’ Canada’s Food Guide and it definitely piqued my interest. I’m a public policy nerd and a nutrition nerd so this topic is right up my ally. The Guide is currently in draft form and is expected to be finalized later this year. The document is produced by the Federal Government’s Health Canada organization, was first adopted in the 1940s, and was last updated in 2007. It has long come under fire for being unbalanced and promoting unhealthy food and dubious links to various industries. The guide has actually been criticized for enabling obesity by a federal government senate report because it encouraged consumption of high-sugar foods such as fruit juices. The updates to the Guide are supposed to reflect a more “evidence-based approach” rooted in nutritional and medical science. Additionally, the government consulted with over 26,000 Canadians including small focus groups and larger briefing sessions with health and industry organizations. Until we see the full guide, and its companion site and documents, it will be tough to fully understand its recommendations and whether they align with my personal ‘keto’ lifestyle.

What to expect
But what do we know so far? What can we expect from the new Canada’s Food Guide with respect to government guidance for healthy eating?

First, it seems there has been more input and consideration of more groups of citizens than ever before. Health Canada is trying to address past criticism and include a diverse range of Canadians in their consultations and recommendations. This includes many different ethnic backgrounds, geographic and market availability, and socioeconomic groups.
It’s also of interest to note that Health Canada agreed not to meet in private with food industry or business reps when consulting with this guide re-vamp. This is a huge step in the right direction in my opinion. Public policy has shifted to engagement or consultation models in recent years, as well as needing to be transparent in development and operation. The government has not made an exception to these new principles when preparing the new food guide.

Second, there’s more to the food guide than just making recommendations for what foods to consume and what to avoid. The guide and it’s accompanying website and literature provide resources for meal planning, shopping for food, reading food labels, tips for eating at restaurants, etc. These are all valuable tools and good skills for everyone to develop regardless of whether or not you agree with the guide’s food nutritional recommendations. The guide will also touch on making good food choices for non-nutritional benefits such as reducing food waste, accessibility, and how food choices impact the environment. These are also important things to consider.

Finally, there’s the ‘meat’ (so to speak) of the guide which outlines nutritional guidelines, and speaks to which foods you should and should not consume. The guide starts with three guiding principles, of which the top two are about guiding what to eat: 1) Foods and beverages to encourage; 2) Foods and beverages to limit or avoid; 3) Knowledge and skills (such as planning, cooking, and preparation).

Nutritional recommendations
So far, the buzz about the new guide seems to circle around changes in recommendations for meat and dairy products. Specifically, shade is thrown on red meat which has the beef industry worried. Plant-based protein, and fruits and vegetables in general, are the shining stars of the guide. Non-saturated fats will be championed, including promoting consumption of avocados, nuts, and seeds, instead of saturated fats as found in butter, cheese, whole milk dairy products, meat, and coconut oil. An opinion piece by a group of physicians and dietitians was published by the Calgary Herald which essentially summed up conventional widespread health and nutrition expectations that eating less animal products and more plant products will be good for everyone’s health. An piece via CBC News presented the counter argument continuing with the old guide’s failings of promoting a low-fat, high carbohydrate foods will not help anyone.

My preliminary opinions
All I can say at this point in time is that I’m inclined to think the new guide doesn’t go far enough to provide recommendations to help Canadians stay healthy, and prevent or deal with metabolic diseases. I’m all for recommendations to eat less processed foods and cook at home with responsibly-sourced and sustainable food. And the consultations, and choice to try to avoid industry and political influence, are noble efforts in the right direction. As an individual, you can chose whether you wish to eat according to the food guide but it’s important to consider the guide’s impact as a piece of policy throughout the country. Schools, hospitals, and other institutions will take their cue from the guide and only offer what it recommends to the most vulnerable in our society. Government recommendations impact industry, products we can buy, and our society itself. These guidelines will be part of the foundation information taught to future generations of children, and those training in medicine and nutrition. And as we’ve seen, science and evidence is developing rapidly regarding nutrition but the wheels of government tend to move slowly. Nutrition is like a moving target but since we’re unlikely to get a new food and nutrition guide anytime soon I hope they hit closer to the that target this time around.