My Keto Journey – How The Ketogenic Diet Has Transformed My Health

My Keto Diet Journey

First let me state that I am not a doctor! I am not trying to give medical advice but only give my perspective and speak on my journey with the Ketogenic diet! With that being said, adopting a ketogenic diet has worked wonders for my overall health and quality of life! I hope by sharing some of my experiences I can motivate you to look into the diet and to do some research of your own! If you have any questions about my experience and what I have learned in my process please feel free to email me at trainpfs@gmail.com. I am happy to help however I can!

Greg McLean

What is the Science? 

Mounting scientific research is confirming that eating a ketogenic diet can benefit people in many ways! My journey with the keto diet did not come from a desire to lose weight. Although I find one of the benefits is that it is easier to maintain a lean physique without that much effort. I also feel my energy is more consistent throughout the day.

Going “keto” by eating high fat, low-to-moderate protein and low-carb foods enables you to break free from the disastrous effects of carbohydrate dependency by resetting your metabolism and promoting metabolic flexibility—where your body learns to burns fat instead of sugar for energy, even when you go off plan. 

Before I get into my journey I wanted to share more information on keto that comes from a blog post my business partner did a while back. Brandon’s mom had cancer and in his efforts to help her he researched the keto diet and did a 6-week ketogenic diet challenge. His results are pretty remarkable!

ketogenic diet challenge

Read Brandon’s story here >>> 6 week keto diet challenge 

My Keto Journey!

My Keto journey all began when I started with a world-class doctor, Dhatis Kharzzian, who specializes in autoimmunity and neuro-inflammation.  I have been sick for the last eight years or so and had followed his work for a number of years but couldn’t get in to see him.  He had sent an email to everyone on his list in August 2018 that he was no longer working with Harvard and would have 20 spots available for new patients.  At that time I had been working with a doctor in Minnesota for about six months, and since Dr. K is the “GOAT” I decided to give him a shot.  I ended up flying to SD that October and spent the entire day being worked up.  He concluded I had CTE of the Frontal Lobe of my brain and said I had my work cut out for me.  I knew a little bit about it from the NFL and the movie Concussion, but that’s about it. 

From my case history Dr. K had determined that a bad concussion I had back in 2004 had been the cause of my sickness. My first symptoms popped up in 07, and at that time I got an MRI of my brain, and everything looked fine.  Come to find out that you can’t see CTE on an MRI, and what I found out is after a stroke, concussion, or any TBI often the microglia in your brain turn on and there is no off switch.  I basically had high levels of brain inflammation that never went away.  Dr. K has figured out how to dampen the microglia like a using a blanket to put out a fire, but he said I needed to do everything I could to reduce inflammation in my body which meant tons of sleep, no booze, and eating a super low inflammatory diet.  With that being said, he told me I should go on a Ketogenic Diet and that’s how I found the world of Ketosis. 

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a normal metabolic process. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body. … Ketosis describes a condition where fat stores are broken down to produce energy, which also produces ketones, a type of acid.

***The sweet spot for weight loss is 1.5 to 3.0 mmol/l.

How did I start and how was I able to be successful with Ketosis?

My first word of advice is read a ton about it.  I am lucky to work with a few guys that have done it, but it’s something I’ve listened to a number of podcasts about as well as good blogs.  If you don’t know enough about the ins and outs of this diet, it can be torture.  I had tried it a year prior to seeing Dr. K and stayed on the diet for about two weeks.  Looking back it was horrible.  I chose a lot of the wrong foods and had basically cut my carbs somewhat, ate a little bit more fat, and upped my protein like most people do.  The single biggest mistake I see most people make is to eat more protein and cut their carbs.  After all the reading I’ve done and what I’ve experienced over the last four months, the two biggest factors to help you be successful is to keep your carbs under 50g/day and to use a Ketone meter every day until you get the hang of it.  I’ve helped a number of people along the way once I got the hang of this and when I ask people what they’re eating, it’s always less carbs, more protein, a little more fat and no meter to measure ketone levels. 

What Ketone meter should you buy and how do I use it?

Remember optimal Ketosis is between 1.5-3.0 mmol/l.  That does not mean that you don’t get any benefits at 1 or 1.2, but for optimal fat burning, better mental clarity, and to get your body fat adapted 1.5-3 should be the ideal range.  I am a big fan of the Keto Mojo meter and strips.  The meter will run you about $50 on Amazon and about $1/strip to test things. They usually sell a starter pack with the meter, 10 ketone strips, and 50 glucose strips.  I haven’t been concerned about my glucose levels, but if you are you can check both daily.  My recommendation if you’re serious about getting into this is to buy the starter pack and also pick up another 50 ketone strips at the same time, so you’re looking at around $100.  An important piece to your success is to start to record your numbers daily on some type of log and check it first thing in the morning.  By starting to measure daily you can start to see where you’re at and learn to dial things in based on your measurements.  I have talked to too many people that don’t measure and I ask them how can you quantify the results you’re getting, you can’t.  Also, I would stick with some kind of meter to measure your levels. Many companies make strips that you pee on and I just don’t think it has the accuracy of a meter that tells you exactly where you’re at.  I have included a pick of the starter kit and here is a link to my youtube page about how to use the meter and not get any errors.

How do you get enough fat in your diet?

Roughly you should be shooting for about 70% of your diet to come from fat. About 10% from carbs, and the remainder coming from protein.  Time and time again, the biggest reason I see people fail when it comes to Keto is they don’t get enough fat.  Think about adding a little bit of fat to how you already eat, and then add up all the fat you eat and double that number.  That should be about pretty close to where you should be.  The KETO FEAR, I’m going to lose my muscle or I’m going to get fat.  I can tell you that after being keto for 4 months now, I am 41 and about 8% body fat.  I feel amazing, and once I overcame those fears, the rest was history. 

Getting your diet to 70% fat is another story.  How do you get that much fat in? One of the biggest tools I really started to implement was a lot of oils in my diet.  Olive oil, MCT oil, Avocado oil, Flax Seed oil, and Coconut oil.  I have some sensitivity to dairy, but butter is also another amazing way to get fat in as well.  For those with dairy issue you can get butter made of goats milk, and should be fine.  What I started to do was make sure I got 2-4 squirts of MCT, Cocnut, or Flax Seed oil in every day.  Then anytime I was cooking I would make sure I used tons of Olive Oil or Avocado Oil.  I also started eating two spinach salads a day where I could get some good leafy greens in, low carbs, and about two tablespoons worth of Avocado or Olive Oil in which is about 30g/fat for each salad.  I tend to eat one avocado a day which for a big one is around 20g/fat and also has around 10g of fiber which is also important since you’re low carb and getting about 25g of a fiber a day for gut health is huge.  I started playing around w different types of coconut yogurt, and my favorite is COYO which is sold at Whole Food’s and Natural Grocers and has around 37g fat for a normal size yogurt serving of 5oz. 

As far as protein goes, I went from having protein 4-5 times a day down to just two.  I got rid of all the protein bars and shakes due to the high sugar content and trying to stay under 50 grams of carbs/day and maybe on a weekend day I will have a post workout shake, but it’s rare.  I have gone with lean cuts of chicken, bacon, and grass fed ground beef no leaner than 20%, as well as different cuts of steak.  Some other good options are chicken thighs and fatty cuts of steak.  I have chosen to get more of my fats from oils, but plenty of people on keto prefer to get a lot of their fat from meats.  How you decide to live daily while being Keto is a lot of trial and error.  You will not survive this diet if you’re not willing to try lots of options and see what works for your schedule as well as your lifestyle.  I cook now more than I ever have before in my life and it’s because I when cooking with oils, vegetables and meats taste so much better the first time, not recooked. 

I have also added in bone broth in three times a week.  I pick it up at an organic meat shop by my house and it’s amazing for getting some of the micro-nutrients you miss out on by not eating certain foods anymore.  Liver worst is another thing a keto coach told me about that also helps with this.  I haven’t gone there yet, but also a good option. 

Who should not try ketosis?

People with diabetes, ketosis can trigger a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis. This occurs when the body stores up too many ketones—acids produced as a byproduct of burning fat—and the blood becomes too acidic, which can damage the liver, kidneys, and brain. Left untreated, it can be fatal.

People that also suffer from blood sugar issues should probably consult a doctor before trying this diet.  Too often people read something, get on a scale a few days later and decide that their weight has hit the unacceptable level and try this diet.  My two cents on this is before trying this diet, listen to few podcasts and read 5 or 6 good articles to understand what you’re getting yourself into.  Once you kind of understand the rules of the game, maybe find a coach to help you through the first month and then maybe someone to check in with from time to time. 

Robb Wolf offers an amazing online class, called Keto Masterclass.  It walks you through every detail you can think of and really sets you up for success.  I’m also a fan of Mark’s Daily Apple and some of his blogs.  One thing I walked away from with Mark was about getting in more greens and being okay with your ketosis levels being a little bit lower, but getting many more nutrients in your diet.  Like I said this has been a journey, and every good journey should include some initial education and conversations with friends who have maybe done this.  After that, it’s a constant battle of trying new things and seeing how your body responds. 

Another big part of starting this diet is taking in lots of fats and oils.  For most people there is an adjustment period of getting used to it.  In the beginning even a small amount of oil if you’re not used to it can act as a laxative.  Funny story, a good friend of mine started this diet and rather than measuring his MCT Oil, he just shot it in his mouth.  About an hour later he was in the bathroom and couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Had to throw away his underwear. Haha.  You get the point.  Make sure when you’re starting all this new stuff that you start in the shallow end and slowly work your way into the deep end.

The Secret Sauce???

One of the reasons so many people feel amazing on this diet is due to having to kick all the inflammatory foods out the window.  Sodas, cookies, chips, gluten, sugar.  One of the biggest benefits of ketosis is mental clarity.  Part of the reason for this is due to kicking all the bad foods that tend to mess with our brains.  I am a super healthy personal trainer, 41, and I work out every day for at least an hour.  I have been gluten free for 10 years due to my Celiacs and the only time I have dairy is on an occasional pizza.  In March of 2019 I had a full blood panel done prior to starting KETO, and my testosterone levels were right around 600.  Fast forward five months later, 4 months into ketosis and my T levels were at a staggering 1265.  My T levels weren’t even close to this even in my 20’s.  One of the things I’ve learned throughout this process and having access to a lot of amazing doctors is inflammation levels and how they affect the Leydig cells which are responsible for producing testosterone.  A low inflammatory diet allows for these cells to produce testosterone the way they’re supposed to and are essential in ensuring we maintain our libido, maintain muscle mass, energy production, and many other important factors.  All I can say is proof is in the pudding. 

My results over the last 4 months!!!

I feel like when I attempted this diet for the second time, having read a ton more and educating myself I had a good basis to work off of.  A few weeks in I would say I really didn’t have the hang of it, but was starting to figure it out.  I definitely had better mental clarity and could go 10-20 minutes longer when working out, and overall my body just felt amazing.  Around week 6 I would say that I really started to get the hang of it, and just continued to read more and more and see if I could continue to tweak things and get more out of it.  Once I got the hang of it, I started to figure out how I would travel and stay successful on this diet.  Realizing that some of the places I would go would not have the stores I have access to in Scottsdale, AZ but know that I’d be okay.  At about the 7-week mark I didn’t really have to use the meter too often.  Every once in a while I would check just to make sure, but I had learned to know what boundaries I had to work within using the meter and from there it turned into a lifestyle that I now live daily.  My energy is amazing and so are my workouts.

One last thought having been gluten free for the last ten years, and having to navigate that back in the day and overnight having to throw everything in my pantry away is this.  When it comes to diets, everyone needs to see what works the best for them.  There is no one diet is good for everyone.  People need to make sure they are medically cleared to try a certain diet and then give it a shot.  Giving it a shot means actually learning the rules and playing by them.  Not your limited version of the rules being put to work for a week or two.  In life we can’t find better if we keep doing what we’ve been doing.  There is always a chance of hitting a home run or striking out.  You can’t hit a home run if you don’t step to the plate, but if you give it a good effort and it’s not for you, try something else.  I have read too much about different diets that some people have crazy success on and others hate them.  You have to find what works for you and be willing to get a little dirty to see if you come out the other side feeling like a million bucks.  My doctor put me as a case study in his last two day seminar and one of the things I heard him say was ” if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury or have CTE, you should be on a Ketogenic Diet as long as you have a heart beat.”  Me hearing one of the smartest humans I’ve ever met say that and then me feeling like crap for the last 8 years, I gave it a real shot and it’s paid off tremendously.  Best of luck to anyone looking to try this diet and you can always reach out if you need some help!

hormones after keto diet

 

 

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