Hate is a strong word, but I really really really didn’t like keto.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a few months now because I know keto (low-carb, high-fat) eating is such a trend right now and I know what I have to say might be a little controversial. Or a lot…
Obviously, I am opposed to the variety of keto eating that promotes steak and eggs and drowning your meals in butter and cheese for the sake of keeping it high fat. There’s no way plugging your arteries with that kind of cholesterol can be healthy for anybody. The keto trend is recent enough that not much is known about the long term effects.
It is possible to eat vegan keto by eating a diet full of nuts, avocados, oils, and other animal-free fats. Since cholesterol only comes from animal-based foods, I can see how vegan keto would be better than the way of eating I mentioned above. However, vegan keto didn’t agree with my body at all.
I just wanted to share my experience with you all so that anybody who is considering trying keto can learn from me.
When I was prepping for my bikini competition back in June, I played around with carb cycling. This was my very first competition and it was very much a learn-as-you-go, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing. The nutrition plans were given to me by the company I partner with, but it was up to me to decide what to do, when to do it, and then monitor how my body reacted to each plan. I have no doubt I’ll perform much better my next round because of what I learned during my first competition. I’ll also have a much longer prep season so I won’t have to be so extreme in the end to reach my goals.
During the final month of prep, I was consistently carb cycling. Because I started my prep so late in the game and still had a lot of body fat to lose, I had to be more extreme than I ever imagined.
For me, carb cycling looked like two days of low carbs followed by one day of moderate carbs. Lather, rinse, repeat. This was no beginner plan. It was extreme to lean me out. And it DID work.
My carb depletion days allowed me one small serving of starch. No fruit. My moderate carb days allowed me two small servings of starches and two fruits.
I’ll be the first to admit that it worked.
If you cut out any macronutrient, assuming all other things stay the same, you’re likely to lose weight. With the big macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), if you cut out 1/3 of your macronutrients and don’t replace those calories, it makes sense that the weight will fall off. At what cost though?
My experience and side effects eating keto:
- Night sweats. Every single night during my final month of prep, I woke up soaked in sweat. Absolutely drenched. Regardless of how low I set the AC, I was a furnace and woke up in a puddle. This was a result of my body burning fat even as I slept. I’d wake up parched and feeling weak, even though I was drinking a gallon of water every day. My bedsheets had to be washed multiple times per week. It was so gross.
- Low/No energy. General fatigue and brain fog were an everyday thing for me during this low-carb period. This makes sense. Our bodies use the sugars from carbohydrates for energy. Low-carb means far less sugar for our body to immediately pull from for energy. You know that feeling of a “sugar high” when you eat a carb-heavy meal and then you crash hard afterwards? That’s because of the way our body extracts and burns energy from carbs. While I never felt a crash on keto, my energy was just generally low. I couldn’t focus and I couldn’t get motivated to do my day-to-day activities. I much prefer the energy I have nowadays on a higher carb lifestyle.
- Viewing Foods as “Off Limits”. I recommend everybody consult with their doctor before trying keto, but ESPECIALLY if you come from a background of disordered eating, as I did. Mentally, I felt that keto was damaging to me and my progress. I started viewing completely “clean” and healthy foods as off limits. There are plenty of healthy foods that are carb heavy. THAT’S BECAUSE CARBOHYDRATES ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY. Quinoa, sweet potatoes, berries, watermelon, apples, oatmeal, and more are great for you. Viewing these foods as “not allowed” was detrimental to my breakthroughs in disordered eating. I knew as soon as I started calling bananas a “bad food” that enough was enough. No results in my physical body were worth risking my mental health or causing a relapse.
- Headaches. Along with the lack of energy and the night sweats came pounding headaches. Sometimes these would be awful enough to keep me from getting sleep, therefore adding to the low energy. Lack of sleep would give me headaches and the cycle would repeat.
- Keto Flu. The fact that keto comes with a little something called the “keto flu” should be enough of a red flag to make a person reconsider. Irritability, nausea, muscle cramps, the brain fog, headaches, and problems sleeping made me feel like I indeed had the flu. From what I understand, this might not have lasted for me for the whole month had I gone straight keto without the refeed carb cycling days, but even just a few days of keto flu is not something I’d recommend you put yourself through. Feeling this rough caused my workouts to suffer and made me not a pleasant person to be around.
I’m all for experimenting with your nutrition under the guidance of a professional, but I also advocate listening to your body and being true to what is best for your overall health and wellness. My own body does best on a 100% vegan, mostly whole food plant based (WFPB) diet with occasional “junk” thrown in.
Because French fries and cookies are good for the soul.