At first, to me, the keto diet just seemed like the next fad. Low carb diets keep coming and going, but as we all know, “It’s not sustainable!” But getting your body into ketosis is the way to get your body to start using fat as a fuel source. Once we can use fat as fuel, we’re not going to NEED to eat as often because we have plenty of fat (body fat!) to use as fuel. By getting our bodies to be fat-adapted, we start quickly losing body fat. But the best part is that we stop our cravings and have energy all day, and our brains feel clearer!
Low carb diets, the keto diet, and intermittent fasting (IF) are all based around the same idea. By eating fewer carbs, we force our bodies to use our body fat as fuel. Eliminating carbs will feel terrible at first! When we are used to eating every three hours, our bodies can only use glucose from our diet to create energy. We are literally unable to use our body fat as a fuel source, even when we have plenty of it. And it becomes a vicious cycle. Most of us eat more calories than we use, so the excess is saved as body fat. And we’re never going to be able to burn that body fat because our body prefers to use carbohydrates as fuel!
However, the human body is made to go a long time without eating. It makes me laugh to think of a caveman looking at their watch and saying, “Oh, it’s time for my afternoon snack!” No! They would go days eating very little until they were able to kill an animal to eat. In prehistoric times, our ancestors were always “intermittent fasting.” Our bodies are made for this, and interestingly, as you go longer without some food, you’ll get MORE energy! It’s nature’s way of making sure that we’re going to get that next meal. We need the energy to find the buffalo that will feed us.
I get infuriated thinking about the old food pyramid. Eight to twelve servings of grains each day! The base of the pyramid. What we should be focusing our diet on! It’s so backward, and it’s the reason that in 2016 almost 40% of Americans were obese, and another 30%+ were overweight! I don’t think it’s our fault because if we’re following the guidelines set out by the government or health associations (I’m looking at you, American Heart Association), we’re focusing on carbs and low-fat foods. This is not the way the body works best!
I also think about the half marathon training that I did about ten years ago. When I looked up how to fuel myself for a long run, I bought a bunch of disgusting little sugar gel packets. Because to keep my carb dependent body fueled up for a run, I need to give it more carbs. We talk about carb-loading the day before a race – eat a big bowl of pasta and a loaf of bread on the side! We also see it with something as simple as sports drinks. When we’re kids playing soccer, we have a sports drink during the game. It’s basically sugar water to keep us fueled. Eating all of these carbs for endurance sports is true when we’re carb dependent, but it’s unnecessary when we can use our body fat as fuel.
I remember the first time someone I respected talked about eating lower carbs and how we should all reduce our carb intake. I pushed back so hard. I remember saying, “My body needs carbs.” I was getting dips in energy, which would turn to full-on shaking if I hadn’t eaten in the past 2-3 hours. I would wake up feeling nauseous until I ate. I thought she was crazy for saying I needed fewer carbs because eating carbs made me feel so much better! It took me years to realize that the carbs were causing all of those symptoms, putting me into a cycle of eating and needing even more carbs! My body truly did need carbs, but it was an addiction, not health.
The 131 Method by Chalene Johnson is what made me try the keto diet. She always focused on the energy that you get and the clarity of mind that occurs when you go into ketosis. Energy was exactly what I needed! It was also the promise of just a month of ketosis before moving on to the next phase. I can do anything for a month. I could try this. Within four days of eating keto, I could feel it! I went from getting hangry all of the time to feeling almost euphoric with how much energy I had! There are a lot of companies that sell keto strips to test whether you’re in ketosis or not. I don’t think it’s necessary. You will know! You will feel different. Suddenly the keto flu lifts, and you feel the energy because your body can use your body fat for constant, maintained fuel.
Some people can maintain being in ketosis for a long time. I’m not one of those people. I want variety in my life, and there are higher carb foods that are really good for us! I believe that diet cycling is the way to keep our bodies healthy and guess what’s coming next. By changing it up, our bodies need to keep adapting, and that is what’s going to improve our health and our energy. Once your body learns to use fat for fuel, you can maintain that ability with intermittent fasting and a lower-carb diet. A higher carb meal will pull us out of ketosis. But we want our bodies to be able to use that food as fuel, and then go back to burning our body fat right afterward. This is why eating low carb all day until dinner is an excellent way to maintain fat adaption. You can eat carbs, and then overnight while we’re fasting, we can go back into fat-burning mode.
The keto diet may seem like a fad, but it’s something that humans have been doing as long as humans existed! By eating more similarly to our ancestors, we can get our energy and our mental clarity back, all while eliminating cravings. We can get our bodies into a fat-adapted state and use our body fat as a constant energy source.