You are what you eat
There are a zillion fad diets out there. One “expert” will tell you that the Keto diet is the best. One scientific study will tell you that the South Beach diet is the most healthy.
What do you believe?
Unfortunately, diet is not a matter of “one size fits all.” Different diets work different ways for different people. For one person, the right diet may work wonders. For someone else, the diet does nothing.
That’s not what you wanted to hear, was it?
Luckily, once you do find the diet that is right, the results are spectacular.
What diet is best for you? If you are willing to work with me, I’ll guide you through the confusion.
The first thing to do is decide your goals. What do you want from a diet? How will you know if it is a success? Here are some various goals. You can quickly see that they are vastly different:
· Lose weight
· Gain weight
· More physical energy
· More mental focus
· Possible food allergies
I tried several diets before I found one that worked for me. I’ll reveal the diet later in the article. I’ll repeat again: just because a diet worked best for me does notmean it will work best for you.
Benefit of Low-Carb diets (Atkins, South Beach)
When a person is healthy, he or she can drop weight easily. He or she can cut out a few carbs and drop 10 pounds. This is especially easy for people who have physically active jobs or hit the gym hard.
In a low-carb diet, you are reducing the number of carbs you eat. There are many different diets with many different names. Any of them may work. The important word is “may.” If you are very heavy or diets typically don’t work for you, these will not budge the scale.
Of course, this is assuming that your goal is to lose weight. This diet will most definitely increase your mental focus a bit. Have you ever eaten a heavy meal and feel tired? This was most likely caused by the high carbohydrates in your meal.
Cut the carbs and sharpen the mind.
There are some people that focus on “slow carbs” rather than “low carbs.” A slow carb contains a lot of fiber. This takes longer to digest. Usually these foods are not low in carbohydrate. Here’s some examples of slow carbs:
· Fresh fruit
· Fresh vegetables
· Brown rice
Benefit of Keto diet
The Keto diet is also low-carb, but I put it in a category by itself. The Keto diet is very low-carb. You are not allowed fruits at all. The goal is to eat 25 net carbs per day (measured in grams). To get net carbs, subtract the grams of fiber from the total carb grams. This is along the lines of “slow carbs.” Fiber slows down the digestion of a carbohydrate, and keeps the blood sugar low.
The diet will eventually force the body into “ketosis.” When the body is in ketosis, it operates off fat, not carbohydrates. This diet encourages you to eat lots and lots of fat. Lovers of bacon will be fans of this diet.
You are hauling an extra store of fat around on your body. We all are. When you are in ketosis, your body is eating fat wherever it can be found. Most find that the fat drops quickly.
Don’t you need carbohydrates to live?
Stay with me on this one. It is a complicated answer. Ketogenesis is the process by which your body takes fat and turns it into glucose (sugar). Certain parts of the brain need glucose energy to function, but your body can produce all it needs.
So, no, you do not need carbohydrates to live. You need a bit of sugar, but your body can make that. You can survive the rest of your life without consuming another carbohydrate. Some people live this way.
How long does it take to enter ketosis?
Unfortunately, this is different for everybody. Until you hit ketosis, you will be low energy. If you don’t eat enough fat or protein, this can take longer. If you are older, this can take longer. If your body is stubborn, this can take longer. Our hope is that this will take 2–4 days. For some, this takes longer.
Until you hit ketosis, your mind will be cloudy and your body will be low energy. You will feel about the same as when you tried kicking coffee.
When you finally enter ketosis, you will feel amazing! Your energy will skyrocket and your thinking will be laser-focused.
Beware: It is easy to kick yourself out of ketosis if you accidentally consume too many carbohydrates. If this happens, you must restart the 2–4 day process.
Can I speed up the process of getting into ketosis?
The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. When someone is monitoring their blood sugar, they are concerned with their glucose levels. Glucose in your blood is free-floating energy that your body can lay hold of. Aside from your blood, glucose is also stored in your muscles. Glucose is the fuel that makes you “go.” There is also a store of sugar in your liver.
When all of your fuel stores are gone, it will finally dig into stored fat (or ingested fat). At this point, you are in ketosis.
How do you speed up this process? You want to suck up all the energy in your blood first. You can do this by waiting. You can do this by learning and working your brain. Your brain uses up to 20% of your energy.
You can also use your muscles (exercise).
This can be a lot of aerobic exercise or a little explosive HIT exercise.
And then for the liver. Just wait.
I’m lazy. I just wait. If I’m inpatient, I try some fasting. This will also speed things up (see the section below).
Benefits of Carnivore diet
This one seemed crazy when I first heard of it. In this diet, you only eat animal products. You eat meat and fat. That’s it. You don’t eat fruits. You don’t eat vegetable. You don’t even eat nuts.
There’s two big objections for this one. First, don’t you need some vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables? Second, why would you want to do this diet at all?
This diet was first proposed by an explorer who spent time with Eskimos. These Indians lived off the animals they hunted and killed. That’s it. For years. Totally fine.
There’s two things here. When you cut out all fruits and vegetables, your daily recommended allowance for vitamins changes. Plants contain many “antinutrients.” These either compete with the body for absorption or reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. As a result, you need to take more vitamins to compensate.
If you are not eating plants, you have no antinutrients. Therefore you need less vitamins and minerals.
Secondly, the tribes of people who ate the Carnivore diet used all of the animals they killed. Vitamins and minerals are stored in the organs of animals. This is know as eating “nose to tail.” If you are consuming organ meat, you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Personally, I found this icky.
Instead, I found pill supplements made from organ meats. I can pop a pill without thinking too much about it. Here is a supplement I took while trying the Carnivore diet (no affiliation).
Why try the Carnivore diet?
Now for the “Why” question. Why would you even want to try the Carnivore diet?
The Carnivore diet is not for weight loss. It might cause wight gain for some people. Some think it is a healthy way to live. Some suspect that it heals you. Many report that clothes fit better.
The Carnivore diet is an “elimination diet.” You are cutting out all the things that may cause an allergy. After about 90 days on the diet, you slowly add things back in.
If you were experiencing a food allergy and did not know, some time away will allow you to heal. When you things back to your diet, you will experience an immediate reaction if you are allergic.
I tried the Carnivore diet for 90 days. I learned that I had a problem with gluten. It makes me itchy, bloated, and causes rashes.
I will likely never try the Carnivore diet again, but I’m glad I did it once.
Benefits of Fasting diet
There are oodles of fasting diets. During a fasting diet, you don’t consume any food for a period of time. You are allowed 100 calories a day (or less) to stay in a fasted state. Feel free to have a little cream and sugar in your coffee.
You are allowed coffee, tea, and bone broth. Some people let themselves have artificial sweetener. I feel they add to insulin resistance, so I avoid all fake sugar.
There’s fasting during certain hours of the day. This is known as “intermittent fasting” or IF. As a subset, there are different patterns of “eating windows.” These measure in the number of hours you fast and the number of hours you eat. For example, in a 16/8 diet (the most popular), you fast for 16 hours and eat for eight. During the “eating window,” you will consume all of the calories you need for the day.
In the “warrior diet” people compress the eating window to 4 hours. This is a 20/4 intermittent fasting diet.
I like “alternate day fasting” where you eat nothing for a day, and then whatever you want (within reason) to following day.
Many people find it easy to lose weight on an Intermittent Fasting (IF) schedule.
Warning: It is possible to gain weight on IF if you gorge and overeat within your eating window. Stick to your daily recommended calorie limits.
Weight loss is obvious. Some can lose a pound a day (or more). You are more focused.
For those that want to be in ketosis, this is the fastest way. Throw in some exercise to make it even faster.
One strategy is to fast 2–4 days until the body enters ketosis and then starting to eat Keto.
In a long-term fast, a person does the same as above, but for longer period of time. This is for the truly stubborn body.
This is my favorite method.
A fast of 5 to 7 days is safe for anyone without seeing a doctor. Of course, do not attempt a long-term fast if…
· You are on medication
· You are pregnant
· You are young (under 18)
If you are a healthy adult, fasting is safe.
Some people have done very long fasts. The first few days are difficult (2–4). When your body enters ketosis, your hunger will go away completely. You have no interest in food. This hunger does not return again until your body needs to eat.
Remember: You are learning to listen to your body. When the hunger returns, even a few days in, eat something. Special care should be taken when breaking a long-term fast.
So what diet is best for you?
As I said in the beginning, it is different for everybody. You don’t know until you try. Here’s those diets again:
· Low-Carb (Atkins/South Beach)
· Keto (very low-carb)
· Carnivore (no-carb)
· Intermittent Fasting
· Alternate-Day Fasting
· Long-Term Fasting
Try them out for yourself. See how you feel. Are you more healthy? Do you think more clearly? Are you hitting your goals?
Give your diet a month. Really stick to it. Don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t work. It may not be for you. Try a different diet.
Once you find a diet that works, stick with it. The best diet is the one you can follow life.