Ketosis Is Not A Plate Of Cheese Part Two... Carbohydrates And What Is A "Keto Diet"?
So I tag #keto a lot in my recipes, and that is because they are keto! I follow a modified keto diet - meaning no I don’t live off sticks of butter, I just eat well and I fast occasionally so naturally I am in ketosis some of the time (not ALL of the time)… I have the kind of body that thrives off large meals low in carbohydrates with no snacking and less frequent eating. My diet is based of a heap of green veggies (low in carbs but still some carbs), good quality proteins from both veg and animal sources (in small amounts), and lots of good fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts, chocolate, coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut everything).
Food or single nutrients?
I quickly want to address something I see often... people think that I eat so many leafy greens because they are low in calories, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Leafy greens, and vegetables in general are one of the best things you can do for your health. And I’m not going to sit here and list the vitamins that they contain because in my personal opinion that just compresses everything that is good about them to a few nutrients in isolation. News flash… food is not nutrients. Nutrients like folate, iron, fibre etc are just a small part of the story, these foods (organic locally grown veg) are magical gifts from Mother Earth and contain energy in ways we can’t study in a lab. There is huge limitations to nutritional science because A) the human body is highly complex and individual, making it hard to isolate variables, and B) the same goes for food, often whole foods are good for you not because of the breakdown of micro and macronutrients, but they house things we are yet to discover. For now I call it the magic transfer of information and energy from the earth to our bodies. I’m sure when science becomes more advanced they may be able to study in more depth what it is in these foods that makes them so healthy. But in my personal opinion, it's not the fibre or folate or carb count in itself.
What do I think of carbs? Do I eat them? Which ones do I eat? When do I eat them?
Let's go back to the keto thing. I love ketosis, although its important to note that to me there is no such thing as a "keto diet"… My famous saying “Ketosis is a physiological state, not a plate of cheese”. For that reason I can’t answer any questions about the keto diet because to me there is no such thing, ketosis on the other hand is a different story.
In my personal opinion, ketosis (the state that your body is in when it has run out of glucose and is therefore creating energy from fat) is a normal human body function. Our bodies have the ability to do it, because otherwise the human race would not have survived. Without the ability to go into ketosis, humans would literally just die when they ran out of glucose. Since there isn’t large amounts of glucose in the body (some in your blood and some in your muscle cells in the form of glycogen) this wouldn’t be a very long time that you could stay alive.
So that’s what ketosis is. This means that contrary to popular belief, if you normally eat in a way which means your body is in ketosis, and then you eat carbohydrates, your not suddenly going to implode. Your body will just burn that glucose since it favours glucose first, then because you have the ability to burn fat… once you run out of glucose it will go back to burning fat. There is really nothing to be scared of, and it is something known as metabolic flexibility.
YES I do eat carbs! I will ALWAYS favour food over macros.
I eat a LOT of green veggies because they are magic foods not because they are low in calories... these have carbs in them. Then occasionally I also enjoy root vegetables (my favourite carb) and fruit (although I generally go for lower sugar fruit like berries, kiwi, and small amounts of higher sugar fruit like bananas, apple, pear). I no longer feel the need to binge on fruit and I also rarely crave sweet things so don’t really have much of a desire to eat a heap of fruit.
Additionally an extremely low carb diet can be risky in those with thyroid issues, cortisol issues, fertility issues, amennorhea and also can affect sleep. Although I have never experienced any of these issues (I always get my period, don’t have thyroid issues), I do take extra care of my sleep because it is ludicrously important in overall health. Bad sleep hygiene is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Have a listen to this podcast to find out more.
To quote one of my fave authors Max Lugavere…
Myth: Everyone should eat low carb always. We are all fat because of sweet potatoes.
Truth: We eat too many of them, they are often highly processed. They spike insulin and chronically elevated insulin is linked to many diseases.
So when and how often do I eat foods higher in carbohydrates?
Honestly it changes. Really I just eat them when I crave them. Sometimes I just don’t feel like my normal #livbowls which are generally low in carbs and high in fat. This may be once a week, twice a week, three times a week or I may go 3 weeks without any starchy veg! Sorry, I know people are always looking for really definitive answers, but the reality is when you tune into your centre and what is right for your body, there is just no such thing. My internal centre tells me what to eat, not any external set of rules or restrictions.
One important thing about when I eat them… I still feel much better when I run of fat (I have more energy, I’m in a better mood, less hungry, more productive etc.) so when I do have some starchy veg it’s pretty much always at dinner time. After which it’s not essential that I’m super productive and this also helps me sleep.
Going back to the keto and metabolic flexibility thing…
It’s actually my personal belief that everyone should have the ability to be in ketosis. In fact, I think that that is how humans are designed (NO I AM NOT SAYING TO BE IN KETOSIS ALL OF THE TIME)… But in modern society, since we are carb lovers and tend to snack and eat frequently, our bodies have actually lost the ability of ketosis. This means we get HANGRY when we don’t eat for a few hours. Evolutionarily this makes no sense. Some people in the media call this “metabolic flexibility” which basically means that if needed, our bodies should be able to function properly if for some reason we are without food for some length of time.
Interestingly, chronically elevated levels of insulin is linked to many diseases. I like to give my body a break from insulin which is why I practice fasting. You literally can not burn fat in the presence of insulin.
Why the need for this keto diet craze?
Since we’ve lost this ability to be in ketosis (though typical modern lifestyles of snacking heaps and eating way to many processed carbohydrates and sugar), it forces people to have to undergo ketogenic style diets for long periods of time so they become fat adapted (read: they can run off fat) when in actual fact we should have naturally had this ability anyway. Catch my drift?
For this reason, this whole “I’m keto so I’m afraid of carbs and if I eat one I will die” thing is just complete BS. Once you have the ability to be in ketosis, it’s likely that like me, you’ll enjoy the feeling so naturally you will want to eat foods that keep you in ketosis or at least don’t give you this sudden blood sugar and insulin spike. BUT when you do feel like a little beetroot here or some quinoa there… the world will not end, and if anything it’ll aid in athletic performance, muscle building, hormone levels and sleep!
Remember, food over macros always.
Tune in to your centre, and you’ll know what to eat.