Going Ketogenic – The How to Guide
This post is about Going Ketogenic while backpacking.
Basically, if you would like to lose A LOT of weight in a quick healthy way, and/or if you would like to experience the reversal of many symptoms that occur with age, including actually looking younger! (let’s face it; who doesn’t like the sound of that?), then I honestly know how.
Sound like science fiction? Yeah, actually it does a bit, doesn’t it?! LOL
But, you see, not only can I give you the science and method behind weight and age reduction BUT I’m also writing from my own actual personal experience.
In just 1 week (yes just 1 week!) I lost every single ounce of excess fat on my body. It was FREE, easy! (totally unintentional), and it all started while I was backpacking on Phú Quốc Island.
So sit back and let me tell you a little more about what happened, and then I’ll explain the 3 simple ways you can do it too!
How I Lost So Much Weight
I want to start by saying that I went into this for the anti-aging effects. Going Ketogenic has been scientifically shown to activate cell repair and healthy cell regeneration.
At 41, and having smoked for more years than I care to admit, I decided that I would finally stop smoking – and with a bang! – by killing off any cancerous cells accumulating in my body and rebooting my entire immune system at the same time.
Losing weight was actually an accidental side effect of this for me. I didn’t know until after the fact that I would lose so much weight as well. I was really shocked! – in fact, I still am really quite flabbergasted at just how skinny I’ve become.
Going Ketogenic reduces you to your body’s natural fat composition, and for those who don’t know me, my natural composition has always been very skinny.
For example, in those sensitive teenage years when what people say to you hits you deep down in your core, I was ‘endearingly’ called names like “Lurch”, “Lanky Wank” and “a lanky streak of piss”.
This lovely image is testament to my genetic lankiness. It was taken when I was about 8 years old, and I call it ‘The Gladiator Pic’. 🙂
The point is that although I may look like a cannibal’s worst nightmare – you won’t! (unless you are naturally skin and bone like me in the first place). So do read on:
(the dramatic option)
OK. So you know how people sometimes annoyingly exclaim “If you wanna lose weight stop eating!”. It turns out that this extremely unhelpful advice is actually quite helpful.
Fasting, which means ‘to go for an intentional, controlled period of time without eating’, is getting A LOT of mainstream attention at the moment, and that’s because the latest science is discovering amazing benefits:
We know this from the science that there’s so many benefits: benefits for weight loss, benefits for insulin sensitivity and type 2 diabetes, for heart disease, for cancer, for liver disease, and also just to feel better, for mental clarity; there’s so many amazing benefits. ~ Dr Jason Fung
Fasting may sound like starving yourself to death, but before you run away screaming that I’m a nutter, please give Canadian nephrologist (kidney disease specialist) Dr. Jason Fung the chance to explain fasting in the following short video, and then give me the chance to break this down just a little bit further.
How Fasting Works
It’s actually really simple, and really interesting (promise!).
Carbs/sugar are converted by our bodies into glucose for energy. When we eat more carbs/sugar than we burn off (which most of us do), the excess glucose is stored in our bodies as FAT.
Moreover, each glucose molecule attaches loads of water molecules to it; when excess glucose is stored in our bodies, that water is also stored, causing inflammation in the body.
It is the fat burning effect of Going Ketogenic that has sent it viral, but when we lose the excess fat, we also lose the excess water; thus reducing inflammation (and the reason for so many other healing effects), which is much more exciting in my opinion.
But what the heck does ‘Going Ketogenic’ mean? What are you going on about robito!
OK. OK. Calm down. Bloody Norah! It works like this:
After every meal we eat, within 4 hours we have used up our energy (glucose) from the carbs/sugar that were in our blood stream. After 12 hours of not eating, our liver begins using up all its stored sugar to make energy (glucose).
When all that sugar has gone, we have no more glucose for energy.
“So where do we get our energy from then?” I hear you ask with uncontainable excitement, and rightly so; cause this is where the real magic happens!
After 1 whole day of not eating, our liver starts making ketone bodies, or ketones, for fuel. Then, after 2 days of not eating, our bodies start burning our stored excess FAT to produce more ketone bodies.
In other words, our bodies naturally start producing ketone bodies when we no longer have any carbs/sugar left in storage. Ketones are therefore simply an alternative (but, as we’ll see, more efficient) energy source.
Dr. Eric Berg breaks it down with his whiteboard:
What does this mean for you?
Well, after approximately 12 hours of not eating, you will begin peeing out all that excess water weight I was talking about (that was attached to the excess carbs/sugar in your body). This is amazing!
Why? Losing all this unnecessary excess water is where the initial rapid weight loss comes from, but at the same time it’s also reducing inflammation in your body which, as we’ll see later, is VERY healing.
The next miracle starts after approximately 2 days when you start to burn your own body fat to create the ketones that give you fuel. But we’re not done yet!
The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Japanese cell biologist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for discovering the processes of autophagy.
Autophagy is when the body’s healthy cells eat the old, unhealthy and unwanted parts of themselves to repair and grow back new and strong.
Autophagy, which literally means ‘to eat thyself’ and begins after approximately 3 days of fasting, has special benefits when you lose weight:
If you lose weight while stimulating autophagy, … You will ‘eat’ those extra blood vessels, fat cells, and connecting cells as you lose weight. Without that left-over, unneeded tissue, your skin connects tightly to the overlying tissue. It results in tight, toned skin. No batty arm wings for you! ~ Dr. Annette Bosworth
Additionally, cancer cells feed off glucose (not ketones), so by fuelling our bodies from fat we starve and kill cancerous cells, but by also being in a state of autophagy, they will also be eaten by healthy cells. A double whammy for cancer!
Finally, the process of cell cannibalisation breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells; this triggers stem-cell based regeneration; in other words, after 3 days or more of not eating, you effectively regenerate your entire immune system.
Dr. Dominic D’Agostino states: “If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body”, and recommends fasting for 5 days (7 days max).
My Experience Fasting
So I did my first ever prolonged (or extended) fast while on Phú Quốc Island from Sun 14th April to Thur 18th April 2019.
As mentioned before, I did it to get into cell repair/regeneration as a healthy boost to stopping smoking.
It turns out, though, that fasting is also the ‘easiest’ way to lose weight in the sense that you simply stop doing something (eating); not eating, however, also makes it the most scary and dramatic. Certainly the results were dramatic! LOL.
People are surprised to learn that while fasting, we actually stop feeling hungry. Nevertheless, depending on how many carbs we usually eat per day, it can be quite difficult to just not eat. This article has some good preparation tips for a 3-day fast.
As for me; this infamous (among my friends) video of me backpacking on the island of Mauritius in 2017 humorously demonstrates that I have spent many a time backpacking on few carbs, and it turns out that I’ve probably therefore been unknowingly slipping in and out of ketosis (producing ketones for fuel) for quite a while.
I stopped eating after breakfast on Sunday; then smoked my last cigarettes and drank a couple of coffees at midday in a cafe across the road to celebrate (good news! studies show coffee aids in bringing about ketosis and autophagy).
From then on, I drank A LOT of water (at least 2 litres a day) to flush out the toxins and keep me hydrated. I slowed down whenever the pee went clear (this means you’re completely or ‘excessively’ hydrated).
I didn’t, but you can also drink tea and coffee during the fast (black with no added sugar or milk).
As your insulin levels go down and your body pees out excess water, you also pee out certain electrolytes (namely sodium, potassium and magnesium). This can result in ‘keto flu’ symptoms such as headache, lower back pain, brain fog (mental cloudiness), a rapid heart beat, achy muscles and insomnia.
These symptoms usually last for the first 3 days, but they can be completely avoided in many people by simply drinking a glass or two of salt in water every day (lack of salt leads to the other mineral loss).
I didn’t know this when I started fasting, so for the first 3 days I did experience brain fog (a kind of dizzy, dreamy feeling when I turned my head). I also experienced a rapid heart beat, couldn’t sleep and an achy lower back.
However, these symptoms were mild, were not constant, were kind of interesting more than anything, and soon left when I added salt to water (I also bought some potassium supplements; just one stopped the lower back ache).
On the other hand, I also experienced noticeably increased mental focus (able to concentrate on one thing without my mind wandering), increased mood (felt extremely positive), and experienced a zen-like state.
The usual thoughts (eg. worries, judgments) and even feelings (eg. tiredness, hunger) were still there, but they kind of hung out in the background of my mind and disappeared really quickly, while at the forefront was always a feeling of calm and peace.
This is what happens when we practise mindfulness/meditation, but it was even more pronounced. Fasting seems to increase one’s own ability to be mindful. In my case, I felt profoundly present, peaceful, happy and calm – as well as losing a tonne of weight of course!
(the easy option)
OK so the benefits sound great, right?, but perhaps it’s still a bit extreme for most of us. No worries. Here is the easier version!
Intermittent fasting can give us many of the benefits of prolonged fasting, but in a very simple and manageable way.
The good news? We all intermittently fast. You, me – everyone.
After our last meal of the day, we are fasting. The first meal the next day, breakfast, literally means ‘the meal that breaks our fast’. Technically, therefore, breakfast can be at any time of the day.
Already sound more promising than 3 to 7 days starving yourself? Trust me. It’s easy-peasy. Read on!
How Intermittent Fasting Works
There are many ways we can increase our fasting window. For example, we could eat every other day (alternate-day fasting) or eat only 4 or 5 days a week. But again, this is all still pretty extreme. I promised you easy!
There are a few easy intermittent fasting protocols, but the two most popular methods by far are the 5:2 and the 16:8 (the latter being the easiest). Let’s look at both:
The 5:2 Method
In the 2012 BBC Horizon documentary Eat, Fast, Live Longer, journalist Michael Mosley struggles through a 3-day fast, and then opts to try the 5:2 method, which means eating normally 5 days a week and then consuming only 600 calories a day for 2 days.
On both, he loses weight, reduces his borderline-diabetic blood sugar levels and his IGF-1 levels reduce by half (ie. he starts the cell-based regeneration mentioned above).
However, as personal trainer and 2 Meal Day health coach Max Lowery explains about the 5:2 method, “the two calorie counting days are incredibly restrictive and challenging. People usually follow the 5:2 until they lose weight and then go back to eating normally after. On top of that, it isn’t technically fasting”.
The 16:8 Method
I particularly like the idea of Max Lowery’s 2 Meal Day. It’s backed by Dr. Adam Collins, nutritional expert at Surrey University, and Lowery uses the 16:8 method which I think is much easier for people to follow.
The 16:8 method is when we eat normally for 8 hours and do not eat for 16 hours each day. Don’t worry! That includes sleeping! For example, we have our last meal at 6pm and have breakfast at 10am the next day. You choose the times that best fit for you.
The 2 Meal Day focuses on paying attention to your own body and feelings of hunger instead of strictly watching a given time-frame. This is what I do, though I don’t always eat two meals a day (more on that below).
What does this mean for you?
When fasting like this, your body gets into the habit of going into ketosis (producing ketones), and this means beginning to burn fat for fuel and recycle/repair cells much more quickly – in as little as 12 hours.
In the aforementioned BBC documentary, Mark P. Mattson, Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, explains that intermittent energy restriction (ie. intermittent fasting) also triggers new neurons (nerve cells) to grow in the brain, improving brain health and prolonging the onset of Alzheimer’s in humans by 30 years.
Therefore, the scientifically validated benefits we’ve mentioned such as sustainable weight loss, lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, activating cell repair, and now improving brain health, all occur when we keep a regular, intermittent fasting pattern of 12 hours or more.
There are of course endless other intermittent fasting options. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino eats 2 meals a day spaced 12 hrs apart, while superhuman ‘The Iceman’ Wim Hof eats just one meal a day after 6pm.
To benefit from weight loss and age reversal, just pick a pattern that you think might work for you and give it a go!
This excellent video series by metaskills fanatic Veronika Jelínková goes into great detail about the benefits and types of fasting:
While Dr. Jason Fung answers all the questions you’re likely to have on intermittent fasting here
My Experience Intermittent Fasting
I currently sort of do a 16:8 fast with 2 meals a day, but I focus much more on my own body and how I feel.
I start by making a mental note of when I finish eating my last meal of the day. If I finished my last meal at 6pm, then 16 hours would be 10am (see, I can do maths! LOL).
Since coffee encourages ketones, autophagy and does not take you out of a fasting state, I usually start the day with a coffee (black of course), and just check in with my body to see if I feel that 10am is an okay time to ‘break-fast’.
If I conclude that I’m hungry now, I check by drinking water (as we all know, hunger pangs are often dehydration) and then I’ll have a big, hearty breakfast. If I’m not hungry though, I’ll wait until I actually am (which may not be until lunchtime, for example), always remembering that the longer I fast, the healthier!
I eat my second (and usually last) meal when I am hungry again. Currently, this seems to be about 4.30pm.
I’m sure this will change when I start working at the university again over the summer. At the moment I can start my daily activities whenever I want, and while I’ve been transitioning into a ketogenic diet (see method 3 below), I haven’t been as active as I usually am.
Finally, I haven’t been able to test my blood sugar, insulin levels or ketone levels while backpacking (not ideal), and of course I have no idea if I’m producing new stem cells or nerve cells.
But what I can tell you is that my weight loss is sustained, and my mental health benefits (increased focus, mood and zen-like calm/peace/happiness) also continue from the 5-day fast I completed almost 1 month ago.
The Ketogenic Diet
(the adventurous option)
Lastly we come to the most adventurous option. Changing our diet completely and using fat as our primary energy source.
In other words, when we’re not prolonged fasting or intermittent fasting (when we’re eating! LOL), we can fuel on bodies on ketones instead of glucose.
It was while I was doing my fast on Phú Quốc Island that I decided to go all the way and give this a go. I figured that I would already be in ketosis by the end of my fast, so why not continue?
I spent those 5 days learning all about the diet, made copious amounts of notes, and each day you could find me scouring that Vietnamese island for keto-friendly foods and stocking up, ready to use fat for fuel once my fast was over.
I switched to the ketogenic diet on the evening of Thur 18th April (my girlfriend’s birthday); and, at the time of writing this, the last time I had any glucose like rice, pasta or potatoes to fuel my body was exactly 30 days ago (the same day I stopped smoking)!
Does that sound pretty crazy to you? It still does to me! LOL.
How The Ketogenic Diet Works
You’ve been patient, read a lot, and my fingers are starting to hurt (LOL) but don’t worry, I can keep this brief ’cause the ketogenic diet is actually pretty simple!
There are 3 ways we can fuel our body – with carbohydrates, protein, or fat. Most of us fuel our bodies with carbs.
To use fat, we need to reduce our daily carbohydrate intake to a level that causes our body to start (or keep) producing ketones for fuel. This depends on each person’s metabolism, but typically means keeping carbs between 20-50g a day.
To put this into context, one banana contains about 30g of carbs and is enough to stop ketosis in most people. Like I said, a ketogenic diet is indeed a complete diet change!
Most protein sources have 0 carbs, but people only eat a mid-range of protein. This is because we want our fuel to come from ketones not glucose, and proteins (like carbs) convert into glucose not ketones for fuel.
Therefore, if we eat loads of protein, we’d need to eat loads more fat to compensate; about 70-75% of what we eat on a ketogenic diet should always come from fat.
This means that instead of getting my fuel from loads of rice, potatoes and pasta, I am getting my fuel from loads of oils, butters, fish, nuts and seeds.
Personally, I base my diet on what Dr. Stephanie Estima calls “Clean Keto”.
“Clean Keto” refers to plant-based, nutritious, healthy keto rather than the typical “Dirty Keto” of bacon for breakfast that you find all over the internet.
Perhaps sadly true, but no amount of ketones is ever going to make bacon for breakfast every day good for you. Sorry!
I start with my nutrients from a big bed of healthy, low-carb green-leaf veggies like spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choy and mustard leaves covered with some cucumber, broccoli, cabbage and/or avocado.
I then get my protein from eggs and fresh mackerel (super cheap in Thailand) with some tinned sardines and tuna, and also some cheese while in Vietnam (too expensive in Thailand).
I’m getting the fats from the eggs, fish, avocado, cheese, plus by adding olives, chia seeds and/or flaxseeds, as well as cooking and/or covering with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, butter, cacao butter and mayonnaise.
I know it’s weird, but suddenly eating fat for fuel starts to sound kinda healthy, right? LOL.
Additionally, after between 4-6 weeks of producing ketones continually, your body becomes keto-adapted (or fat adapted), meaning your body can now switch between using glucose or ketones for fuel. What kind of super power is that!
What does this mean for you?
On a ketogenic diet you’re producing ketones from fat to fuel your body long-term, and it is this long-term ketosis that has several additional benefits to those mentioned already.
A comprehensive list of these benefits is given in the FREE digital e-book Fat Can Save Your Life (50 Keto Fat Facts) by Dr. Annette Bosworth.
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, some of the most exciting benefits come down to no longer having inflammation in the body (and brain).
When inflammation is removed long-term, people report reduced tinnitus/improved hearing, improved eyesight, oral health, physical energy, sex drive, sleep quality, and skin (reduced wrinkles! and acne), as well the prevention, eradication or long-term reduction of addictions, depression, Type 2 diabetes, heart troubles, seizures, dementia and mental illness.
My Experience on The Ketogenic Diet
For many I expect that this option sounds like hard work and daunting; for me, I find it really exciting – a real adventure!
I grew up on the typical Western diet, and then I started eating vegetarian (and then vegan) about 7 years ago, but on all of those diets, I have always suffered from cyclic low mental and physical energy dips.
Over the years, I’ve been tested for anemia by one doctor who concluded that “You’re just lazy”, I’ve been offered antidepressants by another two doctors, and a third doctor actually suggested that he refer me to the psych unit (because I said that I have lazy, low days!).
The facts is – most of us do! – and one of the biggest unspoken reasons is our diets.
Why? Because we’ve been told (and sold) that consuming high amounts of carbs is how we fuel our bodies; yet sugar and protein (glucose-producing foods) create insulin spikes and energy crashes, as well as inflammation in the body and brain.
Consequently, it is now a known fact that diet (along with lack of exercise) is the major cause of the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health issues) that we are experiencing in the Western world today.
Meanwhile, a fat-fuelled diet which began as a cure for epilepsy in the 1920s and continues as a treatment for cancer today is creeping its way into the mainstream thanks to vigorous scientific research demonstrating a plethora of benefits and even beginning to suggest that fat may well be the preferred fuel source of our body and brain.
So for the moment I will continue with the diet. By now I should be more or less keto-adapted, meaning I can soon experiment with carb cycling or cyclical ketosis (switching fuel sources) if I wish.
Mentally I feel incredible on fat; I have felt no desire to start smoking again and my wrinkles seem to be reducing!
Physically I also feel the stable log-burning type energy all day; the unique issue I’m having is how to put weight back on! (an issue that seems rarely discussed. LOL).
The crazy thing is that if I want to get fatter, I need to eat carbs not fat. Fuelling my body with fat is not suitable for putting fat back on!
The option that interests me now, then, is increasing weight on this bony breathing carcass of mine with lean muscle mass instead of with fat.
Luckily, I’ve now come across online keto physical trainer Thomas DeLauer who’s built like a brick sh*it house and might be able to help me out. I’ll let you know how I get on. In the meantime, here’s his full ketogenic diet guide:
In a Nutshell (conclusion)
My Wish For You!
First, if you have made it this far then my sincerest congratulations!
Either you found this article really interesting, or you started reading and then got to the point where there seemed like no turning back. LOL.
I truly wish for you that if you have extra body weight, or are starting to feel the burden of aging on your body and/or mind in any way, that you find the incredible science (and my own experience) contained in this post useful.
I really think that in the years to come we will not look at Going Ketogenic as weird anymore; a bit like how going plant-based is slowly becoming seen as ‘better’.
If you want to go even deeper into this topic, the references below are what I used to learn about ketosis while I was fasting on Phú Quốc, and to write this post with accuracy.
Thanks again so much for reading this post, and good luck with Going Ketogenic if you decide to give it a try!
Finally, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing.
Until the next time, all my love for now,
Rob (aka robito)