I’ve been trying out the ketogenic diet since February. For those not familiar with the ketogenic diet it is a very low carbohydrate diet with moderate protein and lots of fat. I’ve known of it in the past but never gave it a real effort, and as of lately was hearing a lot about it being involved in cancer treatments. No, I don’t have cancer, but think about that – reversing cancer through dietary changes! CrossFit did a great writeup of it in Cancer, Carbs and Controversy.
The idea is to limit carbohydrate intake to the point that insulin and blood sugar levels are very low thereby allowing the body to create and burn ketones for energy. It turns out that unlike other cells in our bodies, cancerous cells cannot use ketones for energy but need glucose, so a ketogenic diet starves the cancer cells into remission.
I was very interested in the whole concept and I thought I’d give it a shot, not because I had a cancer phobia, but just because I was curious. I have used the Zone extensively in the past, and while I had good results, I also found that sometimes I would need to use rice or sweet potatoes simply to fill my “required” carbohydrate block prescription for the day. In some ways, it seemed odd or less ideal for me and less specific to my daily needs.
I also noticed that the foods that contain a lot of fiber or have a very low glycemic index on the Zone Block Chart, were the ones that I could eat a lot of with a ketogenic approach. These foods are also packed with vitamins and minerals often earning them the title of a “power” or “super” food.
Here’s how I created my ketogenic approach. When Zoning my food, I’m typically a 16 block individual. To enter into a ketogenic state, I would need to limit my carbohydrate intake to 30-50g or less per day. I cut my prescribed carb blocks down to 4/day and replaced the other 12 with 3 fat blocks EACH. So, I subtracted 12 carb blocks and replaced them with 36 fat blocks.
While this sounds like a lot of fat, when you do the math, you’ll find that for every carb block you eliminate it takes 3 fat blocks to make up the caloric deficit. So a typical Zoned meal that used to look like:
4P, 4C, 4F
is now,
4P, 1C, 13F
Now, I’m no dummy and I understand the nutritional value in vegetables and fruits and my nutrition goal is always longevity and overall health so knowing that I only got 1 carbohydrate block per meal, or 9g of carbs, I made sure I picked the very best ones. As I said earlier, these also tend to be the ones that you need a lot of to really add up to any caloric impact. For instance, I could have 1oz. of rice, or 4 cups of broccoli. The broccoli option would give me a lot more of the micro-nutrients that rice is pretty much void of and it would be a lot more food to keep me full.
It’s been about 3 months since I started this experiment on myself and while I don’t think it’s for everyone, it works great for me! My body composition has changed pretty dramatically, my energy levels throughout the day are always up, and when I do get hungry for my next meal it’s a different kind of hungry than in the past. My hunger no longer makes me anxious or stressed about needing to eat right away, but instead I notice that I’m hungry and if I can I eat and if not then I just wait until I can. No fuss or panicky feeling that I’m going to die!
In addition, even though I may be eating less carbohydrates overall I’m absolutely sure that I’m eating A LOT more of the best kinds. Leafy greens, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and berries make up a lot of the carbohydrates I do eat. There are times mid-workout where I feel myself hit the wall, although we’ve all experienced days like that no matter what nutritional pathway we are on currently. I know the lower carbohydrate intake might not optimize my performance to all ends, but it works better for my lifestyle.