Ketogenic diets have been around since the 1920’s – not just since the Atkins or South Beach Diet craze. They had a real public resurgence in 2003 and went strong for about 18 months until finally people not accustomed to discipline and knowing how to work the diet (the average Joe) saw that they could regain the weight as quickly as they lost it.
But despite how much these diets have been recently villainized or labeled unhealthy, they are anything but. The benefits are many and far outweigh any negatives. Sadly, they are misunderstood and a lack of knowledge – even for some practitioners – is to blame.
Ketones are produced by the liver from fatty acids which are the result of the breakdown of body fat in response to the absence of glucose (sugar). Being in “Ketosis” simply means that traces of ketone bodies (the by-products of fat burning in the absence of carbohydrate) are determinable in the urine and bloodstream.
In ketogenic diets like Atkins New Diet Revolution, or the South Beach Diet, the idea is to avoid carbohydrates altogether in the beginning and then gradually re-introduce carbohydrates in small amounts, provided they are low on the **glycemic index. And, in fact, medicine proves that the tiny amounts of glucose that a person will need in order to carry out certain functions can be met by consuming a minimum amount of carbs OR can be manufactured in the liver from the protein you eat.
There are a couple different kinds of ketogenic diets. One is a straight ketogenic diet, which constantly demands the same ratio of fats, proteins and carbohydrates day in and day out. Which leads us to talk about the other, which is Phasic or Periodic Ketogenic Diet (PKD). This type starts out with a strict ketogenic diet for a period of weeks until insulin sensitivity diminishes and at least 10-15 pounds of body fat are lost. This should be between 4 and 8 weeks. A gradual fluctuation in the ratio of carbohydrates occurs here, and a few low glycemic** carbs are added in (1 or 2 per day) usually ingested prior to 2pm. The final phase of this diet is a maintenance phase, whereby more low glycemic carb choices are added in and the person maintains their weight loss and stabilizes their metabolic rate through consistency of this diet and exercise.
The final type is the CKD, or cyclical ketogenic diet. This diet is most popular among bodybuilders. This is the best, following a straight ketogenic diet, for maintaining weight loss and continuing to lose weight over time. It isn’t an optimal diet for mass gain, but it is a great diet for mass maintenance for a natural athlete. For an AAS user, this diet could work very well for bridging the gap between looking relatively good all year long, and being competitive in terms of adding an appreciable amount of mass. You won’t be a monster, but you can make steady gains… just eat more calories overall and this will be the variable that allows you to do that.
Research also shows that aerobic exercise increases your body’s ability to get into ketosis faster. So despite the fact that a great many bodybuilders will do this diet and not do a lick of cardio, they could actually achieve ketosis much more rapidly if they were to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise after a nighttime fast (sleep) of 12 hours. Getting on the bike or treadmill prior to getting ready for your day and prior to stoking your mouth with that first bite of food, ketosis can increase by up to 25-50% depending upon how long you exercise.
How to test for ketosis?
Well, your local pharmacy has these nifty little urine-testing strips, called Ketostix (just as the dour looking guy behind the counter, watching to see if you’re going to steal something and beat him up in the process) where he keeps them – behind the counter with the insulin needles and other diabetic supplies.
When testing for ketones in your urine – a sure sign that you are using fat as your primary fuel (at least initially) – keep in mind that ketones will only spill into the urine when there is more in the blood than is being used as fuel by the body at that particular moment.. So, if you have exercises previously, for an hour or so, your muscles may have used up the circulating ketone bodies and you may appear to be a diet slouch. Just test several hours after exercise and you should get an accurate reading.
Truth is also, some people who do just very low carb and not as much fat, burn fat at a great rate, but never register as ketone-positive on these strips, so check out your mirror too. Don’t get freaked out by the strips.
So what’s a good example of a bodybuilders ketogenic diet? Well, here’s a sample day from a straight ketogenic period. This represents about 50% protein 45% fat and 5% carb. And that 5% should really come from residual carbs associated with certain proteins and fats, as well as from vegetables, whose carb content is absorbed by the digestive process, so cancels out.
- Meal 1: Bacon or sausage, 5-6 eggs
- Meal 2: 6-8 oz Chicken breast, MCT oil, olive oil or 1 whole avocado
- Meal 3: Decaf coffee with heavy cream, 8 oz steak, salad with oil and vinegar
- Meal 4: Dark meat chicken with Indian sauce made with spices and cream
- Meal 5: Steak, Peanut butter and coconut milk dipping sauce (curry powder, natural pb, can of coconut milk, small amount of chicken or beef stock)
- Meal 6: Chicken stir fry – chicken, sesame oil, vegetables, 1 avocado
- Snack: Celery ribs with peanut butter + protein shake (no carb/sugar)
You want to keep protein and fat very high in this diet. You’ll cut down a bit of the fat to add a slight bit of carbohydrate on a CKD. But not much. The most important meals are breakfast (first meal) and your post-workout meal, whichever that will be. These halt catabolism while you burn fat. Take one of your ketogenic meals, or have a protein powder cannister and an MCT oil or flax oil bottle in your gym bag. Downing the protein and fat right after your workout (within 10 minutes) is the key to losing fat, but not losing mass.
Some people get up in the middle of the night and have a protein shake with some fat also. This is up to you. This will definitely increase fat burning, but if you can’t get back to sleep, then it isn’t worth it since your rest time decreases, and hence, your recuperation time.
WHY MCT OIL?
- MCT oil is more ketogenic than other fats.
- MCT oil is fast acting and can be used as a ketogenic lift in the A.M. or post workout meals.
- MCT oil can also have laxative effects, so it can be a great thing since constipation is common with this diet.
- MCT oil can be incorporated into sauces and used in salad dressings, etc…
It often doesn’t taste very good, but brands like Cap Tri are palatable.
Overall, some variation of this diet is the way to go for most competitive bodybuilders walking the tightrope between mass gain/ maintenance and fat loss. For our buck, this has the best bang of all!
**The Glycemic Index measures how the body responds to foods in terms of insulin response – the more insulin secreted in response to these foods, the higher glycemic they are. Insulin is fat producing and fat storing).