Check out my interview with Leanne from Healthful Pursuit!
Today i'm reflecting back on my nutritional ketogenic experiment and all the recipes I've documented on the blog. I've followed the super-low carb way of eating with a focus on fuelling my body with fat for approximately 6 weeks (until around the end of March), and have now begun reintroducing some foods such as beans to see his my body feels. I will admit there have been some slip ups along the way, which took me a day or two to get back into keto (largely due to my food business!)
When following a 'fat fuelling' way of eating, if the carbohydrate intake is too high (typically over 50g net but that can vary slightly from person to person) then the body will automatically revert to burning the excess carbs before returning to use fat as the primary fuel source. To help speed this part of the process up, cardio exercise can assist.
The main benefits of nutritional ketosis is a focus on fat as a more reliable fuel for constant, steady energy compared to carbohydrates which by their nature peak and trough more rapidly. That said, it is recommended to experiment with 'cyclical ketosis' whereby you practice weekly carb-up days (focussing on root veggies etc instead of high sugar sweets etc) to boost hormone production.
In Leanne's book she states:
"This isn’t about binging; it’s about replenishing glucose stores as a “reboot” to the body, primarily with the goal of filling depleted glycogen stores and up-regulating hormones and thyroid activity. If more carbs are consumed than needed to replenish glycogen stores, this “refeed” process can lead to gaining fat. The timing, duration and macronutrient composition are crucial to the overall success of the diet."
An aerobic activity the following day also helps to reduce the glucose stores and quickly enable to body to shift back into ketosis.
So, what are my overall thoughts?
A ketogenic diet typically revolves around animal products (and veggies), and so a vegan-keto diet is admittedly more restrictive and requires effort. As I briefly mentioned at the start of the experiment, my reason for following this way of eating was so that I could understand more about my body and my relationship to sugar (largely frucose), and see if shifting my fuel source had an impact on my body fat, and also increase my awareness around and appreciation for carbohydrates. For example I hadn't realised celeriac has less than half the amount of carbs compared to potato BUT it makes amazing fries! :-)
What does a day of vegan keto-day look like for me?
I didn't document and shoot photos of every dish I created (though more of them went on instagram), but I noticed my meals across the course of a day typically followed a general pattern. My snacks and daily hemp porridge focussed on the bulk of my protein needs whilst my smoothie and main meal were higher in carbs. This is the opposite of what many people would choose to do, and was something Leanne and I both found interesting!
This is my overview of a typical day, with recipe links and a collection of photos from my Instagram account. The timing and exact order of meals are very approximate.
Meal One: (approx 11am) note: I often (but not exclusively) follow an intermittent fasting style of eating.
- Hemp porridge: 21g protein / 10g net carbs / 400 calories
Meal 2: (approx 1pm)
- Green smoothie- similar to this one but with a bit more avocado and minimal fruit (approx 1-2tbs apple per portion was all I needed in the end to suit my tastebuds) 2g protein / 10g net carbs / 110 calories
Meal three: Snacks like these would be eaten through out the afternoon (or morning) but i'm including them in one block here. Snacks are the part that would vary the most depending on my workout days or what I have eaten for my main meal.
- Two chocolate hemp squares, or some of these crackers, a couple of fat bombs (see Leanne's blog for ideas), a tofu sandwich or a large handful or almonds (basically any combination of these to make up my calories/protein and give me a boost between meals. Typical values would be 15-25g protein / 5-10g net carbs / 500-800 calories
Meal four: (approx 7pm) my 'main meal'
- Flax focaccia and huge salad focussing on greens and other low carb veggies. Or alternately veggie curry with coconut milk, or soup, or tofu scrabble with greens, cauli-risotto using low carb veggies..... etc etc. This is not my main protein source but If it's been a heavy workout day I may add tofu for a boost. Typical values would be 8g protein / 20-25g net carbs / 400-500 calories
Meal five: (approx 8pm or as a snack earlier in the day)
- Chocolate shortbread pudding. This would typically be eaten as dessert if I fancy one, but I don't always feel the need for a dessert anyway. Or I might eat it a alongside my green smoothie earlier in the day. I wouldn't have this everyday and not if my main meal had been at the higher end of the carb scale. 5g protein / 7g net carbs / 250 calories
So you can see as a very general overview the general macros I am hitting are as follows:
50-55g protein / 50g-55 net carbs* / 1700-2200 calories
* I found I can go up to approx 75g gross carbs and still be in keto. This is largely due to the fibre in the veggies hence why I have given figures as net carbs (after fibre accounted for). I also found that on days I creep over the 50g a little (more intuition than strict tracking of macros) I am still in keto (based on the colour reading of Ketostix) just not as strongly.
Shots taken from my phone and Instagram page give a good overview of the types of meals and snacks I was eating (click to enlarge)....
.... The purple stuff on put on a lot of my meals is this homemade red cabbage sauerkraut. I love the stuff and make big batches of it! Great source of probiotics. I also had a lot of cauliflower- grated in porridge, roasted, raw with dips and riced up. So versatile! It's always been one of my favourite veggies and a low carb winner!
.... Another top tip is condiments and spices. I really played around with using almond butter and tahini for dips and drizzles but also finding interesting super low carb marinades, pastes (such as an awesome olive one I found) stuffed olives and low carb pickles in the supermarket... my favourite was an indian chilli pickle- I added a dollop to many a meal. This kept things really simple but made sure I didn't get bored without the usual variety of veggies.
I tracked my ketones using ketostix. They are known for being less reliable than blood or breath testing methods but they are cheap and easy to use and I felt gave me an accurate enough indicator for my experiment. I tested my ketones in the evenings everyday for about the first 10 days then a couple of times I was more familiar with my eating patterns.
What did I find hardest?
Surprisingly I didn't miss dried dates after a few days (my nemesis!) Though to a degree that was to be expected as it was the same when I followed a strict candida diet for 30 days a year ago. HOWEVER nuts are my biggest downfall... I could gorge on almond butter all day. I think tracking my quantities a little better would have been wise and that is likely to be one of the biggest infuences on my overall calorie intake and maybe therefore lack of change in body fat.
I also found it very hard to continue to do my work in the optium way. I develop recipes for Real Food Source, as well as make food for friends and family (of which I typically test the mix), and of course there is Wholeplus- the opposite of the keto approach! NOTE- one of the reasons for trying a keto diet is NOT because I think my food products are not sound nutritionally but because I felt I had become a bit addicted to it and wanted shock the system and break the habit!
My digestion definitely improved when I was in strict keto. I experienced a lot less bloating... but I most definitely noticed the effects in the moments I slipped up!
My energy levels were good, though to be honest not significantly different. My workouts did not seem to suffer. I haven't yet noticed a significant change in body fat levels. (Maybe I ate too many nuts!?)
I eat a lot of veg day to day, but what has been very interesting to me is my awareness of the carbohydrate levels of different types of veg- something i'd ever really paid a great deal of attention to before. It has given me another dimension to my selection process and this knowledge if something that I see to be of a continued benefit.
My focus on getting protein in my snacks is also something that has continued. I am now adding beans back into some of my main meals, and will dabble with quinoa too so it is not such an issue, but it feels good to me knowing that I can easily hit my protein needs even if all I want is a huge plate of salad or veggie curry for dinner.
A ketogneic diet was never something I had planned to do permanently. To be honest I had no expectation and no timeframe beyond the first 30 days. The food I miss most are beans and pulses, I am bringing those back in gradually to see the effect that have in my digestion I imagine other foods will follow. That said, I will continue to practice a low carb diet, restricted grain consumption and maintain many of the principles- such as the choc hemp slices (without dates) and the virtually sugar free choc crunch dessert. My fruit in take is also likely to be super low with a focus on berries before bananas. I really didn't miss the bananas and feel no need to go back to them. Time will tell!
All in all, with my Wholeplus business, my work in developing recipes for other companies, and desire to write a plant based food blog inclusive of everyone... it simply would not be feasible for me to maintain a strict long term ketogenic diet without going crazy!
I still maintain there is not one dietary path that suits everyone (I have never pushed a vegan diet on anyone), BUT I do feel strongly that everyone could benefit from simplifying, eating real whole foods, eating lots and lots of veggies and reducing overall sugar and carb consumption. Simply changing things up a little and exploring different dietary styles is beneficial to everyone. It helps us think outside the box, break habits and routines that may no longer serve us and in the process helps us truly understand what feels best for our bodies.
Check out my Recipe index!
Have a look at my recipes all together in the ketogenic tab in my recipe index. If you are simply following a low carb diet there is a tab for you too. Vegan or not- there will be plenty of inspiration.
Finally... check out my interview with Leanne from Healthful Pursuit!
As part of my journey I initially purchased The Keto Beginning. Whilst not written for a vegan diet, it gave me a really clear understanding of what nutritional ketogenis is all about as well of plenty of tips to get me started. When I began interacting in Leanne's dedicated Facebook group it led to a hook-up to discuss vegan-keto for others who maybe interested in exploring that route. Check out the interview here where we chat about my experience.
If you are interesting to understand more about my vegan keto experiment (I appreciate this post is a brief summary!) I'm always happy to answer questions and support you in your own journey: firstname.lastname@example.org
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