Keto done right.
I’ve been keto for 6 years now.
Oh boy, how it changed — how keto world changed, how my way of doing it changed! How much I’ve learned!
At the moment of writing this I’m finishing my first long break from keto — a whole month, when I’m nowhere near keto diet. I’m doing a whole month on fruit! (I don’t think you can get much further from keto on whole foods). Whole fruits primarily, fat and protein almost non-existent, no animal products, with some celery juice, raw mushrooms, vegan protein and spirulina in the mix from time to time. That is all I’m eating for a month! Really needed a break from animal protein and animal fat, from all the fat, too much butter, too much cheese and yogurt, even too much fatty fish and avocados!
These past few months, including more saturated fats and dairy, did not feel good at all — I should have known better. All the evidence, mostly from experience of other people (There are just no good studies at the moment comparing one keto diet to another keto diet, there is no money in it or world-saving problems to solve), — all the evidence shows, that eating too many saturated fats, even from pastured animals, does not do a body good, too much animal protein daily also does not work for longevity, long-term health, too much dairy, even the best quality dairy, doesn’t work for many people (Specifically cow’s dairy, sheep and goat dairy seems to be better, but even then, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to make it a big part of the diet).
And especially we, women, we definitely do not thrive on a lot of animal protein and saturated fats diet — our hormones get out of balance faster and everything starts feeling off.
I get approached by many people, telling me they want to do keto, but they are concerned about either heart health (mostly guys) or hormonal health (mostly women) — everyone wants the weight loss, metabolic health, low blood sugar, stable high energy levels, great mental performance, emotional stability and peace of mind, no cravings and much better hunger control, physical fitness and good muscle tone.
And there is a way to have all of that but first, it’s gonna be slightly (or a lot) different from person to person (Gut microbiome, digestive health and health history plays a huge role), second, there is a smarter way to do it (based on the evidence and our best health research from all areas of health science, not just research from keto community) and there is a dumber way to do it (based on wishful thinking, that macros is all that matters, and you can eat all the calories and all the fat you want).
Before I give you my best personal/professional-experience-based advice on keto done right (that will increase your chances of not having to deal with keto flu, low energy levels, carb binges and cravings, fat loss plateaus, hormonal problems, sky-rocketing cholesterol levels and increased inflammation), before that, I want to share a few thoughts of mine, that might change the way you think about keto, about any diet.
There is no long-living population, that follows a keto diet for life.
The only indigenous naturally-keto population on Earth is probably inuits — and they are not long-living or the healthiest and fittest people. The rest of tribal-living populations, that still exist, more or less untouched by modern civilization, eat somewhat paleo diet with most calories still coming from carbohydrates (of course not refined ones — tubers, some fruit, nuts and seeds, grasses, honey etc. — plants tend to be a more reliable source of nutrients compared to hunted game) with occasional wild game and protein+fat binges from VERY occasional larger animals.
“In fact, data collected over many decades showed that coronary artery disease is common in Greenland’s Inuit population. Heart disease is as frequent — or even more so — among native northern populations as it is for other populations. Strokes are particularly common, and life expectancy overall was found to be about a decade shorter among native populations.”
All Blue Zones’ people (people from areas across the globe living the longest) are not on a keto diet.
Read between the lines of all keto testimonials, positive or negative.
Most keto success stories, start from eating a crappy processed food diet, or a diet with a lot of poor quality animal products, too much protein, too much acidic food, or a diet high with lectins-containing pro-inflammatory plant foods, and/or lots of dairy, it all starts from there to a keto diet with all of that removed. And then also, I often hear from people, going from keto to that sub-optimal diet, telling everyone, that without keto all their problems return (Was it really keto that did the “magic”?). Well, you know what, when I eat processed foods — I feel like crap too. But my fruit month gave me no such problems, nor it increased my blood sugar levels a lot (4.2–4.4 mmol/L on average in the morning).
“However, I do intentionally get out of ketosis for about 2 months every year. I time this around the holidays so that I can enjoy all of the food celebrations that start with Thanksgiving and culminate with New Year’s. Doing this allows me to not just fully enjoy the holidays with friends/family, but the added protein/carbs allow me to build muscle and strength.
However, not long after upping my carbs/protein, I start to feel pain in my joints again. [Was it really about carbs and proteins per se or the nature of them? All the holiday food?] My belly starts to get bloated. Heartburn returns. Energy fluctuates. Food cravings come back.”
I guess, details matter, like A LOT, what one can eat on keto, or any other diet, might not be the problem of the diet, but of the way one does it.
Foods matter. Timing matters. Food combining matters.
Isolated nutrients do not act the same as whole foods do. Different animals have different metabolisms and blood profiles — do not fall for animal studies’ “proofs”.
Some foods might be great by themselves but combined with other foods might be a disaster — like all-whole-fruit diet might cause zero problems (not saying it’s sustainable long-term, that’s another question) but combined with lots of animal foods, high fat content of the diet — and you get a disaster! (I’m still yet to find ANY study done with humans and actual fruit VS some isolated fructose solution, that shows any negative consequences of eating fruit).
Back to keto now and why you clicked on the headline in the first place.
Keto done right. The evidence-based recipe.
- A lot of non-starchy, colorful but mostly green fresh and cooked vegetables.
- Keep animal protein in check, focus more on fatty fish and eggs, organ meats — not muscle meat of big animals.
- Keep saturated animal fats low, switch to predominantly plant mono and polyunsaturated fats, plus Omega-3s from sea food.
- Watch quality of your food — hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, pro-inflammatory meats — not a good news for your gut and whole body health.
- Avoid vegetable oils. Specifically: sunflower, safflower, soy bean, canola, cotton seed, corn, most polyunsaturated bottled fats. Go for extra virgin olive oil and olives, avocado oil and avocados, unrefined coconut oil and coconuts, fatty fish, nuts and seeds — whole foods are always better.
- Keep cows’ dairy (butter and cheeses including) close to zero or very low. Look into A2 dairy, no-cows’ dairy, no-animal dairy alternatives.
- If you need more protein for muscle building — get it from vegan protein supplements (no sugar, fillers or artificial anything added of course).
- Keep your electrolytes — sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, calcium — in check. Try to get the most from foods and mineral water.
- Athletes: I highly recommend to add whole food carbs around your workout, not so much for glycogen, as for your nervous and immune system recovery and support.
- Women: really focus on green vegetables. For sure, do regular smart carb keto-breaks.
- Keto-breaks: for optimal health every 10–14 days get out of ketosis with whole food paleo carbs — sweet potatoes and other tubers, especially resistant starches, whole fruit, low lectin nuts and seeds, more colorful vegetables.
- Fasting: if there is anything you must do on any diet — daily 13–14 hour fasts (12 hours at the VERY least). 2–3 meals a day. No snacking.
- Sleep and food: finish eating 3–4 hours before bed for proper recovery, especially to optimize brain “detox” (through glymphatic system), for better brain health, longevity and mental performance.
I hear you, you might think now, “Well, keto seems like no fun and a lot of work with all your rules, Angela!”
Guess what guys? There is no eat-as-much-as-you-want-whenever-you-want diet. Your “diet” success can’t be designed in a vacuum — without thinking about your sleep, the time of eating, your activity levels, your overall health, your age, your gut health, your metabolic health. And I wish I could say a high fat diet will work for everyone. But it’s just not the case. (Even when designed the way I described it above).
Every diet’s leaders swear by their approach and want to put everyone in the same basket — when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. But one’s passion for a particular way of eating (keto, or vegan, or paleo, or any), or a particular training style, or lifestyle hack, doesn’t make it more or less suitable for you.
You got to design your own evidence-based approach, and you got to be prepared for failed attempts, that lead to a better way of doing things, that might or might not fall perfectly into any diet theory.
Need help with consistency? Accountability? Evidence-based and personalized nutrition/exercise/lifestyle plan, that delivers results? Give my coaching a test-drive! You have nothing to lose, except for a few pounds of fat, maybe.
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