The ketogenic diet is a hugely popular method for weight loss, but it can have effects on other areas of a person's fitness and overall health. YouTube's Doctor Mike, aka Mikhail Varshavski, tried keto for 30 days, and offered his insights after a month of getting 75 percent of his calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and only 5 percent from carbs.
"To my surprise, the first few days of keto weren't that bad," he said. "I was totally expecting that I would have 'keto flu' symptoms right off the bat. It wasn't that bad, I didn't have sugar withdrawal."
However, his first heavy workout while on the keto diet was a real struggle. "I'm incredibly tired," he said. "I suspect that it's probably because I haven't had carbs in four days? Or at least not enough to make me replenish my glycogen stores... The weight was the same, my strength was there, but I fatigued much earlier in my sets."
He experienced a similar fatigue when doing cardio as well, feeling "totally burned" after a few games of basketball, and he began to suspect that the changes he'd made to his nutrition were playing a role in his decreased stamina.
Mike also found it hard just keeping up with the practicalities of his new diet. "Eating a diet that's so high in fat is difficult to maintain. I don't plan well," he said. "You have to plan ahead if you want to stick to keto. Because when you go to a fast food joint or a restaurant, yes they may have a piece of meat, but eating high protein is not keto, you have to be eating high fat. So you have to be thinking about what you're going to choose off the menu."
That said, he did start to enjoy the results he was seeing after the first two weeks. "My clothes were fitting better, my abs were coming out of hibernation... Now I understand why this diet is so popular for people who are trying to lose weight quickly." He acknowledges that some of that weight loss would have been water weight, which is not a sustainable change.
While eating a lot of fat meant that he got full quickly and wasn't technically hungry, Mike did get a lot of cravings. "I even noticed a pattern where I was hungry just because I was bored," he said.
At the end of the four weeks, Mike had lost 6 pounds, and had noticed that he was crashing less during the afternoons as he wasn't eating sugar. But he'd also found the social aspect of the diet difficult, and the whole experience just inconvenient on the whole. "For the average healthy person, going on a short course of keto will help them lose some weight, and it probably won't be detrimental to their health," he said, however he did advise consulting with a doctor before making any big dietary changes.
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