I’ve been combining ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting for quite some time now. Two weeks ago a colleague of mine, who is trying to lose weight herself, put me up to a challenge. Starting on Friday the 15th of January, we both had until Friday the 19th of February to lose as much weight as possible and whoever has lost the most by then wins $50. The rules are:
- Weight loss must be safe, ie. healthy eating, low calories and moderate exercise. No going days on end without food and trying to exercise for hours every day.
- If neither of us lose at least 5kg by the end date, neither of us win.
Important afternote: I ended the challenge losing a whopping 7.2kg (15.8 lb) of FAT (a total loss of over 10kg when counting the initial 3kg of water weight lost before starting the competition). I did this entirely through ketosis fasting. Read on if you want to lose weight as fast and easily as I did!
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As I have a trip to Japan coming up shortly after the end date and had wanted to lose a lot of weight before then anyway (I gained 5kg in 3 weeks last time I was in Japan!), I accepted the challenge. We’re now 2 weeks and 1 day into the challenge and I’d like to share my results, as well as some weight loss tips I’ve learnt in these short 2 weeks.
Ketogenic Dieting and Intermittent Fasting really works!
Of all the people in the world, it was my gastro-enterologist who introduced me to “the 5-2 diet“. For those who don’t know what the 5-2 diet is, it’s basically a form of intermittent fasting where you eat normally for 5 days, and eat 1/4 of your usual target daily energy expenditure on 2 days. Using the TDEE calculator I just linked, I found that for weight maintenance (neither losing nor gaining weight) I would need to consume (note: consume. Not “eat”. For some reason a lot of people think liquid calories don’t count – they definitely DO) a little over 2200 calories per day. I simplified this by rounding down to 2200 as this is the average for a man anyway. So by aiming for no more than 2200 calories 5 days a week, and no more than 550 calories 2 days a week, I would effectively be in a total deficit of 3300 calories per week, which is roughly 0.5kg or 1lb of fat “burned” per week.
Before I continue on about my diet and routine for the past 2 weeks, let me get straight into some results.
2 weeks of weight loss doing real ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting
First of all let me add that I had actually started back on ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting (the non-5-2 version) about 2 weeks prior to starting this competition with my colleague. So at my starting weight of 90.6kg on Jan 16 I was already completely and utterly devoid of water/glycogen weight as I was well into ketosis by this point (I was 94.5kg 2 weeks prior when I started keto again, so my usual 3-4kg of water weight had already come off).
In 2 weeks I’ve lost an impressive 2.5kg of mostly fat. I stress again that this was not water / glycogen weight as I had already shed 3-4kg of that in the 2 weeks prior to starting this competition. A good measure of my progress (other than how I look and feel) is the way my work pants fit. I’m going to be completely honest — I had been wearing some really tight work pants as I didn’t want to have to buy larger ones that I won’t fit into if/when I lost more weight. But they were SO tight that I would undo the button when I sat down at my desk, just to feel some kind of relief. Now? Those same pants fall off if I don’t have a belt on, and I’ve gone from the first hole in my belt, to the third in just these 2 weeks!
How I’ve lost weight combining ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting
Okay, now I’d better explain exactly what I’ve been doing to lose the weight so easily. I’m going to break this down into segments.
Honestly, for those just starting to lose weight and have a lot of weight to lose, I would recommend starting a ketosis diet on its own and worry about the intermittent fasting later. Why? Ketogenic dieting is easier to stick to in the beginning. It also teaches you good eating habits, and you’ll learn a lot about nutrition and how your body reacts to certain things while you slowly ease into a new healthy lifestyle. By simply eliminating all processed foods and starchy carbs from your diet, you’ll find yourself losing lots of weight, especially the initial 3-4kg of water and glycogen that your body will burn through, and it will give you a lot of motivation to push on to reach your goal.
Modified Ketogenic Diet
Some of you have probably already read the 2 recent articles Natalia wrote on modified ketogenic dieting, as well as her tips and 3 day meal plan for modified ketogenic dieting. As someone who has been doing keto for a long time now, I have adapted a modified ketosis diet similar to what Natalia describes in her articles. This can be combined well with ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting.
What do I eat?
Mostly vegetables. That’s right. I usually have my first meal of the day around 1PM and it’s almost always vegetables with a little mayonnaise or butter. I really like those Steamfresh bags that you simply throw in the microwave, nuke on high for a few minutes, and serve. The freezer in my office is always stocked right up with these. For dinner I usually eat whatever Sari makes. Sari has also learned a lot about nutrition over the years as I’ve shared with her all that I’ve learnt. Our dinners very rarely contain any carbohydrates unless in the form of vegetable, and are almost always made fresh from real whole foods.
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So what part of this diet differs to traditional ketogenic diets?
Traditional ketogenic diets focus on fat and protein, mostly in the form of fatty meats. They omit most vegetable for the sake of keeping carbs below 20g per day. When combining ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting I generally eat closer to 50g of carbs per day, sometimes more as I’m practically obsessed with rice and try to sneak in small amounts of it whenever I can. I avoid bread but occasionally will have a wrap / tortilla.
Intermittent Fasting in the form of a 5-2 diet
It had never really occurred to me to do a full fasting day for the sake of weight loss. I had always feared the mythical “starvation mode” I’d always heard about. My gastro-enterologist suggested I try dieting this way as some of his own colleagues (medical professionals mind you) had tried it and had great results. He also put me on to some research that suggests (and basically proves) that “starvation mode” aka adaptive thermogenesis only “kicks in” after severe prolonged periods of famine (many months of very low calorie intake, or many days in a row of no calories at all).
Why does the 5-2 diet work better than the alternative intermittent fasting method?
Usually when intermittently fasting I would only eat my daily calories between the hours of about 1pm and 8pm, giving my body 17 hours of every 24 to fast. It would work relatively well, but the weekend would come and I would eat anything I came in contact with and drink well over 1000 extra calories from beers. It’s not that the diet doesn’t work, but rather that I was no good at it. My doctor suggested trying 5-2 as you only really focus on dieting 2 days a week, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out all day every day. And since starting ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting I’ve found it has changed my dietary habits in amazing ways.
What the 5-2 diet fasting method has done to me (other than reduce body fat)
At first I thought I would eat like a hound the day after a fast. I first fasted on a Wednesday when I was home with the flu as I didn’t have much desire to eat anyway. The next day I still had the flu and still had no real desire to eat, so I ended up just heating up some Steamfresh veges like a normal IF day and ended up keeping my calories low for the day. My next fast day was a Sunday. I’ve decided to do Sundays and Wednesdays, particularly because those 2 days are usually bad for me diet-wise. Sunday I usually sit around drinking beers at my computer all day. Fasting means I’ve eliminated an entire day of alcohol consumption, as well as food consumption that day and freed up a few thousand calories from my weekly budget. I also find it’s easier on Sunday as I sleep in later than a work day (wake up around 9am instead of 5:30am) and by the time I’ve gotten up, conversed with Sari, done my workout and had my shower, it’s usually some time after lunch anyway so it feels like I’m fasting for a much shorter period of time than it does on a work day.
What do I eat on my fasting (550 calorie days)?
Again, just Steamfresh veges. I’ve found some Mediterranean style veges which are only around 100 calories per bag and they’re delicious. A single bag of those around 7 or 8pm and that’s all I need to be full after a long day of ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting.
What about non-fasting days?
Well here’s the biggest surprise — I eat a lot LESS on non-fasting days now than I used to. My appetite is much lower, I don’t think / obsess about food even slightly any more and I’ve even cut down my alcohol consumption a LOT in just 2 weeks doing the 5-2 diet. On week nights after work I’d always have 2 beers. I now have 1, and even then I sometimes only get half way through my beer and get over it. Friday nights are no longer “It’s Friday, drink heaps” nights but feel just like any work night. Last night was Friday and admittedly I had 2 beers and 1 glass of home made limoncello (I make my own spirits although this particular limoncello was a bit of a failure). Usually on a Saturday I’d start drinking around lunch time, and drink at an average speed of 1 beer every hour. I don’t get drunk from this, not even tipsy, I just love the taste of beer and I guess it’s no different for me than drinking Coke all day is for some other people. It’s still incredibly unhealthy though and I feel like I’ve been released from a habitual trap, as I now don’t drink on a Saturday until evening and only a small amount (unless we’re going out for a big night). Minimal alcohol intake also helps with ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting.
MyFitnessPal is almost a dire necessity
I know calorie counting is generally a waste of time on a ketogenic diet, but for the 5-2 diet it’s extremely useful. Remember that I’m primarily recommending the 5-2 diet for those who are already close to their ideal weight and are looking for a way to break through that last plateau. So for those of us in that boat, it’s a very good idea to count calories, especially carbs as to remain in ketosis.
My calorie counting method (it’s so easy)
My alarm goes off at 5:30am on weekdays. I have a glass of Ritual or Upload pre-workout supplements then lay in bed for 40 mins until it kicks in. During this 40 mins I open up the MyFitnessPal app on my phone and plan my meals for the day. I find it’s easiest to stick to roughly the same meals each day, at least until dinner time, as you will know exactly how many calories those meals contain and they’ll also always remain at the top of your “frequent foods” list in the app. So I immediately add 2 servings of Steamfresh veges in for lunch (I still don’t eat until around 1pm as I simply have no interest to eat before then). I then add in my 1 beer, or 2 if I’m expecting to be home earlier than usual or it’s a super hot day and I know I’m gonna go for a second one, and then throw in a couple of eggs, miso soup etc that I might have during the day. These foods are great for ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting. I can always remove these later if I decide to skip them. My non-fasting days range between 1200 and 1600 calories per day. So we’ll say an average of 1400 calories, 5 days a week and 200 calories 2 days a week. TDEE of 2200 times 7 days = 15’400. Minus the calories I eat on average (1400 times 5 and 200 times 2) which comes to 7400 and subtract that from my TDEE I get come to a defecit of 8000 calories per week which results in just over 1kg of weight loss each week. On top of that, I burn an extra 300 calories or so doing a 40 min exercise bike ride every morning of the week giving me an additional 2100 calories to spend, which I generally use up over the weekend by eating some higher calorie dinners (takeaway for example).
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Summary of my ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting experience
This is something I think I can easily stick to forever. The combination of ketosis (making me eat well) and 5-2 (making me eat less) is resulting in some great weight loss results. I will swap to a 6-1 approach once I’ve reached my ideal weight / body for maintenance. I highly recommend this combination for people who need to break through the last few kgs to reach their goal, but it will work well for anyone if they can stick to it. But if you’re just starting out, try ketogenic dieting alone first as the combination may be too much at once for a first time dieter.