The Keto diet seems to be EVERYWHERE these days. But is it because keto ACTUALLY works or do people just like the idea of being able to lose weight and still eat fat?
I think that, like most things, this question is probably more complex then people realize.
Anytime we are discussing diet and health as a WHOLE we need to realize that
1. Everyone is coming from a different place. A diet that works for someone who needs to lose 20lbs or more is not necessarily going to work for a bodybuilder trying to get down to 13% body fat or lower (if you are a man)
2. The type and amount of exercise are important. People have different calorie/ macro needs based on how much muscle they carry and how much physical activity they do.
I have spoken to personal trainers who say "Weight Loss is as Simple as Calories in vs Calories Out"
And that is true. Until it isn't...
Hormonal Imbalances (female and thyroid) and Organ Function (pancreas, liver) can affect a persons ability to lose weight BUT these are deeper and more complex issues which should only be considered AFTER the diet and exercise are correct.
To fully understand my stance on keto you need to remember that I come from a competitive bodybuilding background. Which means (especially for little bikini girls) that fat is evil.
You want to lose weight, cut the fat!!
So you can imagine my interest when I see so many fit people on Instagram enjoying avocados and coconut butter.
WTF? Is everything I have been told wrong???
Add to this that I am now 4 yrs post competition and at 38 the weight is NOT as easy to keep off as it used to be!
It wouldn't be a problem if I held extra weight in my booty (what girl doesn't want a bit of extra junk in her trunk??) but I have the unfortunate problem of gaining any tiny bit of weight in my abs.
It's hard to get fitness people to take you seriously without a 6 pack!
So, out of desperation, I reached out to my friend and past trainer and I was shocked at the advice he gave me.
Mr. Evil Fat Had Turned Keto!!
WTF?? This required a face to face conversation!
I met up with Bill and asked him what was going on. The way he explained it to me (which I am now sharing with you) is that after being on the same diet for years and years, your body adapts to that diet (regardless how extreme).
You see we all evolved in a time of feast and famine and the humans who survived had the ability to effectively store fat. That's right, our bodies are pre-programmed to gain weight!!!
That is WHY it is so important to mix up your diets and your workouts. We've gotta keep that body guessing!!!!
Now the BEST way to look like a bikini bodybuilder is to actually DO bikini competitions, but OH GOD do I hate the chicken diet!!! So I needed to shake up my eating another way.
According to Bill, keto is effective for women above 15% body fat and at 18% I would be an excellent candidate.
Any woman wanting to go below 15% body fat would then need to switch back (or switch to) a super low-fat diet of lean protein and veg in order to keep losing.
So the idea was to take me from 18-15% body fat using keto and then switch back to a lean bodybuilder diet to take me down to 14% (without actually having to compete)
What I Was Told to Expect:
- During the initial 3 wk period, my body would be adjusting and I would actually gain 5 lbs (ugh!!)
- After 3 wks, my body would adjust to the diet and the weight would start to fall off a few lbs a wk
- After 3 months, I should switch from keto back to low fat (which puts the rate of fat loss at 1% per month)
Super simple and logical right?! If only life worked the way it's supposed to!
What Actually Happened:
- I initially gained 2-3 lbs in the first 2 months but my belly was super flat (yay!)
- Then after the first 2 months, I gained another 2-3 lbs ALL IN THE TUMMY!!!
I ended up giving the diet 4.5 months just to be sure (I really wanted it to work!) But the 6lbs I had gained refused to budge, so I switched back to my lean bodybuilder diet thinking "Well at least this diet will be more effective now"
Unfortunately, this too was incorrect!!!
It has been 2 months and the extra weight is still there!!!!!!!
Essentially the keto diet took me from 112lbs (I'm 5'3) to 117lbs.
My body then decided that it loves that extra tummy cushion like a toddler loves their blankie and REFUSES to give it up (even when the other kids are making fun of it!)
Again, it often comes down to what your body is used to. There are many people who do lose weight on keto but keep in mind that many of these people used to eat both fat AND high carbs.
Fat and Carbs (sugar, grains) are concentrated fuel sources for the body which are easily converted to fat. When you cut out 1 concentrated fuel source you are automatically cutting calories (without even realizing it) and any long term calorie deficit will result in weight loss.
I really see keto as a beginner diet. If someone is coming from a standard American (S.A.D) diet then it is often easier to cut carbs then fat (FAT IS SOO SATISFYING!!!!) and there are so many calorie-free sugar substitutes (stevia, monk fruit, erythritol) that cutting out carbs is not really a huge sacrifice.
Who Doesn't Prefer Bacon to Carrots?
Simply put, keto has the lowest barrier to entry. People lose weight because they are cutting out 1 of 2 dense calorie sources and trainers love it because their clients are seeing results!
Keep in mind, just because you see some gym babe with a 6 pack about to eat and avocado on Instagram, doesn't mean she is ACTUALLY eating it!
Ok, But Maybe it's Just You. What About other Athletes?
Well, funny you should ask. I wondered the same thing! So I began to ask around. I have never competed in physique. Were they able to do keto because of their higher muscle mass?? (muscle is more metabolically active than fat)
I asked every friend I have in the bodybuilding world and NONE of them do the keto diet (one friend didn't even know what it was!)
Ok, so muscle mass wasn't really a factor.
What about someone doing cross fit? I had heard that cross fitters love keto and thought maybe exercise intensity was a factor.
So again I asked!
I had the privilege of speaking with Margaux Celeste Alvarez (@321gaux) public figure, CrossFit competitor and creator of The Goat Wine. This girl is an amazing athlete and seriously ripped!!!
When I asked her about her diet she said