Keto is the diet where you burn a bunch of calories explaining to everyone what keto is.
MouseK801, commenting on Youtube.
In 2018 and 2019 I experimented with the Keto diet. It was a good experience. I often get asked questions about it, so I thought I'd put them down here.
What is the keto diet?
You stop eating carbs. Since your body prioritizes getting energy from carbs and only uses energy from stored fats as a last resort, this diet forces the body to burn fat. More on how the diet works here
What can/can't I eat?
You can eat meat, eggs, dairy, leafy vegatables, cauliflower/brocolli, nuts. No limit on how much. You can eat as much as you like.
You can't eat cereals (rice, wheat), lentils, potatoes (or other starchy vegetables), fruits or drink alcohol.
More details on how to do the diet here.
Why keto? Why not a regular diet where you eat less?
Other diets work too. I actually tried giving up sugar, limiting my portions and exercising every day for 4 months before the second spell with keto.
I tried keto because it made sense to me. I stuck with it when I saw results.
Did it work?
Yes it did. I lost 6-8kg both times I did. A little less than 1kg per week.
Here's a graph of my weight in the last two years. Keto periods are marked in green.
How did it feel when you were on the diet?
The first 3-4 days were very difficult because it felt like I was starving. After that I felt great. I’ve never felt better than I did when I was on keto.
.. wait what?
I have a tendency to get hangry. I thought this wasn’t a problem anymore because I have ready access to tasty meals as well as snacks but my mood improved markedly when I was on keto. Also, my ability to concentrate was high and remained stable. Normally it flags a bit before and after lunch but not when I was on keto.
I didn’t feel hungry or weak despite eating a lot less. Although I took longer to recover between weight lifting sets, I was able to maintain low intensity exercise for very long periods without a problem. I could walk 15-20km in a day without feeling hungry.
Is it safe?
I looked at the list of nutrients I should have been getting, especially vitamins and minerals and made sure I had the required amounts of everything. That said, I’m not a doctor, and you should consult your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Did you gain the weight back?
The first time yes. I stopped tracking my weight, started eating a lot of junk and exercised very little. I gained 8kg in 10 months. The second time I didn’t. I’ve remained at the same weight while staying moderately active with a reasonable diet.
What’s the downside here?
Although I did not have trouble getting my hands on keto friendly food, that is a challenge for a lot of people. Also, no cheat days. Because of that it’s difficult to attend many social gatherings. Once on keto you realise how many of our interactions are based on food, either in restaurants or in friends houses. I felt bad that my friends had to go out of their way to accommodate me.
Would you do it again?
No, for the downsides mentioned. Going months without going to restaurants or meeting friends doesn't seem worth it at my current weight.
If there was a long period where we were forced to stay at home and not visit friends or eat out, it might make sense. But barring a global pandemic, I can't see that happening.
Thanks to Varsha Krishnan for creating the weight chart.
Also thanks to Venkatramanan Shekar for asking questions these questions and reviewing a draft.