If you know me in real life, or if you have been following my progress on this blog, or if you have even read the title of this website, then you know that I’m on a quest to get six pack abs.
However, I’ve been cutting calories for 5 months now and I’m pretty tired of being skinny. It’s time for this lanky tall Asian dude to put on some mass. And by mass, I don’t mean the technical physics definition of an object’s ability to resist acceleration.
No… by mass, I mean muscle + ass. That’s right. I combined two words to make another word that is only somewhat related. I am a lyrical wordsmith like that. (But I’m not a rapper.)
BUT… before I started bulking up again, I wanted to see just how low I could possibly go on the scale. What’s the fastest way to drop some pounds? Why, by shedding water weight, of course.
What Is The Keto Diet?
Before we define what keto is, we should first define what glucose is. Here’s a Wikipedia definition:
Glucose is a simple sugar with the molecular formula C6H12O6. Glucose circulates in the blood of animals as blood sugar. […] It is the most important source of energy for cellular respiration. Glucose is stored as a polymer, in plants as starch and in animals as glycogen.
Now, your body gets glucose from the carbs that you eat. Sugar, bread, pasta, rice, grains, all that jazz. Whether you’re talking simple carbs or complex carbs, they eventually get broken down into glucose.
But there’s are some potential problems with glucose:
1) It’s such a great and awesome and super duper amazing source of energy that your body prefers to use it first – before any other source of energy. Before protein. Before fat. That means as long as your body has excess amounts of glucose, your body is never going to start burning your fat. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as we can overcome this by just eating less calories. But there’s another problem:
2) Many of the carbohydrates that supply glucose are bad for losing weight. Why? They are very calorie-dense, rarely supplying much satiety or fiber. Also, sugar is ADDICTIVE. Seriously. There have been numerous studies that show that people can form carb addictions (not unlike drug addictions) that make it extremely easy to overeat.
The natural solution is the keto diet.
Okay… So Really, What Is It?
Short for ketogenic, the keto diet produces a state in which the body primarily runs on the energy provided by ketones rather than glucose. But since the body wants to use glucose all the time, the only way to achieve this state is to cut out all sources of glucose from our diet (i.e. cut out all carbohydrates).
So, in short, the keto diet is a no-carb diet.
That means the keto diet consists mainly of pork, chicken, beef, bacon, eggs, cheese, and vegetables. Here’s an average meal for the diet:
Just kidding. Sort of.
There is some wiggle room with regards to carbs. Typically, it’s acceptable to stay under 20 to 30 grams of net carbs per day. (Net carbs exclude fiber)
How Much Did I Lose?
Okay, now we understand why a lot of people are on the keto diet. But… that’s not why I’m on it.
I’m on it because glucose gets stored as glycogen in your liver. And each gram of glycogen carries around 3 to 4 grams of water.
Which means going on the keto diet will flush all that water out. Which means I will lose weight and feel slightly better about myself.
Obviously, this water weight loss is temporary. As soon as I start eating carbs again (which is inevitable, given my love for pho, rice, and breakfast tacos), I will gain that water weight right back. But who cares? I’m doing this just to experiment.
I did this for 8 days and recorded my calories for each day. Here’s my macro intake for those days, recorded in my Calorie Tracker (to be made available soon):
For those eight days, I averaged ~30g of carbs, 140g of fat, and 160g of protein. I ate at a slight calorie deficit (271 calories per day) but not enough to cause a significant fat loss.
As you can see, I dropped from 162.4 pounds to 160.6 pounds, for an approximate loss of 1.8 pounds.
What?! That’s it? I was expecting 5, maybe 10 pounds of water weight to just rush out of my body (in the form of peeing it out, of course). Where’s that great feeling of having lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, even if it’s not sustainable?! What gives, man?! I want my money back.
Why So Low?
Jokes aside, this amount of water weight kind of makes sense if you look at how much glycogen I store, and here’s why.
If you Google “how much glycogen does the body store?”, you find that there is about 400 to 500 grams stored in our muscles and liver.
And if you remember earlier from this post (a few paragraphs above this one, actually), each gram of glycogen holds 3 to 4 grams of water. Therefore, 400 grams of glycogen holds 1200 to 1600 grams of water. Which equals 2.6 to 3.4 pounds.
Okay, so that expectation of 10 pounds lost was probably unrealistic. Maybe for extremely heavy people who eat a ton of carbs, that would be achievable.
My loss of 1.8 pounds is still lower than the range of 2.6-3.4 pounds, and I can attribute this to already eating somewhat low-carb before starting this experiment. I was on a typical calorie-counting diet before, and averaging around 200 grams of carbs a day. In contrast, I would expect the average person to consume 300 to 400 grams of carbs a day, so my water weight would obviously be less than average.
Well, there you have it. Even the keto diet isn’t some kind of magical lose-20-pounds-fast! trick. At most, I’d say an average person can expect to lose 4 to 5 pounds. And that would be over a period of 1 to 2 weeks, where the body is slowly getting used to not having carbs. And, of course, the water weight will come back once you start eating carbs again. Sad face.
I would say the most consistent, reliable way to lose weight is still to stay in a calorie deficit. I’m going to make a second post on the healthiness of this diet, complete with my blood tests. Stay tuned!