While I love being in ketosis and plan to eat this way forever, I was getting very frustrated at how slowly I was losing weight. In fact, since the holidays I had been stuck losing and gaining the same 2 pounds and was hovering around 145. I finally decided to work hard again at hitting my protein numbers and then by chance came across a group on Facebook called Optimal Ketogenic Living. Well, it was like a light bulb came on! I’ll tell you why in a second but first I want to explain why this has been so challenging in general and why most people don’t ever try it our give up.
Choosing to eat a ketogenic diet right now is only for those types that are early adopters. Especially in the sports community, this is new territory and nobody has really worked out the details. Anyone that chooses this path must have the patience and the desire to tinker, adjust, and experiment rather than following hard and fast rules or steps like other ways of eating. Frankly, it’s frustrating. There are a couple of influential people in this community of fat-adapted folks, but not enough for there to exist well-defined schools of thought and different approaches for different people. And this is where I went wrong.
I was following a ketogenic diet that was more suited to someone who needed to be ketogenic for medical reasons, not for weight loss. In fact, until just this week I had never read an argument for defining the two differently! My diet was very high in fat and I never took my protein macro seriously. What I read by one of the most prominent advocates of ketogenic diets encouraged me to not worry about fat intake and discouraged me from eating too much protein, so that is how I prioritized my macros. In hindsight, I now know that I made a big mistake, especially considering my marathon training but at the time I wasn’t connecting the dots.
So here is what I learned: for MOST people looking to lose weight on a ketogenic diet, the amount of fat needs to be much less and the amount of protein needs to be a lot more than you might see on a medical ketogenic diet. On a standard ketogenic diet (SKD) you would eat about 75-85% of calories as fat. That’s what I was doing. But for someone trying to lose weight, the fat macro can come from either dietary fat OR body fat,. That high level of fat I was eating was keeping me at maintenance because it didn’t give my stored body fat a chance to get used. To address this, my fat has now gone down to about 65% of calories and I have a range to stick to. I’m staying in the low end of the range right now for weight loss and will increase intake when I’m in maintenance.
The next issue was my protein macro. Under this new plan, my MOST IMPORTANT goal every day is to hit my protein macro. It’s a minimum I cannot go under and that has been a real game changer for me. Instead of the 50-70g I would get in a typical day, I now eat a minimum of 97g per day with the goal of eating 30g of protein at each of three meals per day. BIG CHANGE for me and my previous pattern of:
Bulletproof coffee @ 5AM
Breakfast of bacon and eggs @ 9-10AM
Snacks of cheese or macadamia nuts through the afternoon
Dinner of meat, cheese, and veg @ 5:30PM
What I learned was that those fatty snacks were a big no-no. That time in-between well-spaced meals was a good time for me to be burning body fat and I was preventing that by eating a snack of fat. I also learned that despite the message I had continually heard, most people can eat quite a bit of protein and not get kicked out of ketosis. I tested my blood ketone levels in the evening of the first day I switched and it was 2.1.
Additionally, as soon as I switched to eating more protein, eating 30g per meal, and not snacking I saw a HUGE improvement in how many calories I was eating. I’m easily 300 calories lower at the end of the day than I was before. Yesterday I managed to get up to 1800 calories due to drinking heavy cream in my coffee while I did work at Starbucks and a very calorie-dense dinner of pizza, but that was closer to my daily intake before.
Most satisfyingly, the scale started moving again as soon as I switched. Like, the next day. I’m down to 142.1 from 145 last week, where I had been for awhile. I am finally knocking on the door of my first goal, to be in the 130s, and the loss is consistent this week, not up and down like it normally is. I am hopeful this trend will continue and I will be at my first goal soon.
I’ve had to give up my BPC but the good news is it saves me time in the morning to just be drinking my coffee black. I’ve had to give up snacking but the good news is I don’t think about eating as much now that I have stricter meal times. I’ve had to eat some lame meals like a can of tuna fish with cheese and spinach but the good news is I will get the hang of eating higher protein and this will improve. This change feels exciting because I feel like I finally figured this stuff out – that light bulb went on and it’s been really energizing to have hope and be working on this new approach to eating. I’ll keep you updated!