4 Weeks on a “Keto-ish” Diet

By Rob Shaul

Over the past 10 years I’ve been following consistently the nutritional recommendations we have published at mtntactical.com. These are simple and direct. These diet recommendations come from Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat. He’s a journalist, not a scientist, and in putting together this book and his other, Good Calories, Bad Calories, took a look at all the nutritional research and saw where it pointed.

 

Current MTI Nutritional Guidelines

  • Eat only … Meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, cheese
  • Don’t eat … refined sugar, wheat, bread, grain, rice, potatoes
  • Drink only … coffee, tea, water, zero-calorie drinks (bubble water, diet soda, etc.) Don’t drink sugar and drastically restrict milk/cream. No alcohol
  • No caloric restriction. Eat to saity. No need to count calories or ever be hungry – just eat “clean”.
  • Do this 6 days/week, then Cheat Like A Mother one day/week.

This is the diet I recommend for the majority of the athletes who contact me asking for advice, and literally hundreds, over the years, have reported losing fat eating “clean” as described above, 6 days/week.

However, as I moved into my 40s and now into my 50s (I’m 52) my metabolism has slowed and eating clean as described above 6 days/week has still left me with 5-10 pounds of fat regardless of my training at the time. This is one of the changes that comes with age.

Over the past several years I’d go through periods of skipping the “cheat day” and this would help, but I wouldn’t drop the extra weight I wanted.

Understand my interest in losing weight is not primarily appearance-driven. I’ve had foot fusion surgery, hip replacement surgery, and suffer from some fairly severe knee arthritis. Being “lighter” will significantly help with these issues.

My adult “natural” weight has been 160-165 pounds. I’m 5’7″ (on a tall day) … and have a mesomorph build – naturally muscular – which adds to my weight. I’d love to get down to 145-150 pounds as my “natural weight.”

Taubes recently published a third nutrition book, The Case for Keto“and I’ve been doing mostly following his recommended Keto diet for the past 4 weeks – and I’ve shed 5-10# pounds of fat in that time. I’m significantly leaner.

Below are Taubes’ Keto Diet Guidelines:

  • Eat only … Meat (beef, pork, poultry, fish), veggies that grow above ground, berries in season, cheese, unsweetened cream and yogurt, eggs, avocados, tomatoes
  • You can eat this stuff in moderation – low sugar chocolates, nuts and nut butters (no peanuts), seeds and seed butters
  • Don’t eat … refined sugar, grains of any type (rice, wheat, oats, corn, etc.), no sauces that use corn syrup/sugar, no veggies that grow below ground, fruit except avocados, tomatoes and in-season berries, no beans or legumes, sweetened yogurts
  • Drink only … coffee, tea, water, zero-calorie drinks (bubble water, diet soda, etc.)
  • Don’t drink sugar/calories, including fruit/vegetable juices, milk
  • No caloric restriction. Eat to saity.
  • Do this 7 days/week

There are two main differences between Taubes’ Keto diet recommendations and the current MTI nutritional guidelines:

  1. Taubes’ Keto diet recommendations significantly restricts all types of carbs – not only “bad” carbs like bread and sugar, but also vegetables and fruit. The goal is to try and to reduce your carb intake to 20-30 grams per day. Vegetables are okay – but only if they are grown above ground … no potatoes, carrots, etc. Also, no beans, including soy and peanuts.
  2. Increase in fat consumption. Based on my age/bodyweight, the recommendation is that I eat 165 grams of fat per day. Sources of fat are limited – avacodos, olive oil, butter, nut butters, etc.

Over the past 4 weeks, while I haven’t been strictly counting my grams of carb intake, I have been watching it closely. To put his in perspective, a single apple has 25 grams of carbs, and prior to dropping in to Taubes’ Keto diet, I was regularly eating 3-4 apples/day, plus berries, oranges, etc. So… a major difference for me has been an almost total elimination of fruit from my diet.

I haven’t done a good job tracking fat intake and I doubt I’m achieving the 165 grams/day. I found this olive-oil based pesto and lather all my meat in it (chicken, etc.) to bump up my fat intake. These last couple mornings I’ve choked down the “bullet proof” coffee – coffee with an added tablespoon of butter and artificial sweetener. And I try to eat 1-2 avocados day. But to put these in perspective, a tablespoon of butter only has 12 grams of fat, a single avocado only 21 grams … so I doubt I’m getting in the 160-170 grams/day I’m supposed to be getting and I’m not sure I’m in ketosis – where my body burns fat for energy all day. For breakfast I’ve been scrambling up 3x eggs and topping them with butter – again to help increase my fat intake.

Taubes’ Keto approach recommends eating to satiety and I do this. I don’t count calories or restrict food – I eat when I’m hungry and just eat what’s on the menu: meat, veggies, fat, nuts. I do drink no-calorie, diet soda to give me a break from coffee and water. For “sweets” I eat dark chocolate – which has very few carbs.

I’ve experienced no negative side effects – training is as normal, no headaches, etc. One thing I have noticed is that I’m much less hungry. My food consumption has decreased significantly, and I eat less at meal time. I’m eating my breakfast later in the morning – 10 or 11am, and then skipping lunch because I’m not hungry. I’m pretty much down to 2.5 meals/day, and not hungry at all.

Again, I’m not doing this on purpose …. I’m never hungry. I just don’t eat as much, snack much less, and am don’t have the hunger I did when I was eating more fruit and less fat. This has been a welcome change.

I do drink alcohol 2-3x/week … but limit it to hard seltzers or hard liquor – which both have very few carbs. No beer or wine.

Below is what I ate/drank yesterday:

AM Coffee

1 Cup “bullet proof” coffee – coffee, 1 tablespoon butter, zero-calorie sweetener
1 Cup black coffee (no added butter)

Breakfast @ 1000

    • 3x Scrambled Eggs mixed with 1.5 slices of cheddar cheese, topped with butter
    • 1/2 Avocado

Lunch/Snack @ 1400

    • 1x Chicken Thigh topped with olive-oil pesto sauce
    • Handful of almonds and square of dark chocolate

Dinner 

    • Salad topped with fish
    • Square of dark chocolate
    • Can of hard seltzer

Other … 1 can diet soda, 1 cup “bullet proof”, water/bubble water,

 

Will this lead to a change in the current MTI nutritional guidelines?

I’m not sure yet. Our athlete target group is in their 20s and 30s and the current guidelines work fine for them. What I’ll likely do is create a second set of guidelines for athletes 40+ and move in this direction. Older athletes need more restrictions to stay lean.

The one concern I do have with Taubes’ Keto approach is its sustainability. I’m not having any issues with it so far, but again I’m not sure I’m meeting the fat intake recommendations and honestly don’t know if I can eat enough avocados per day to get there.

While I’m pretty happy with this diet, my partner isn’t happy. I was fairly strict on what I could eat before and this adds restriction, which limits dinner and breakfast choices significantly. This has caused tension with her.

 

Questions/Comments? Please add yours below.

 

 


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16 thoughts on “4 Weeks on a “Keto-ish” Diet

  1. Rob,
    Really enjoyed reading this article. I find your articles about nutrition are pretty spot on and very useful. As a 50 year old Retired Army Vet of 29 years, I too have found myself spinning my wheels on nailing down my nutrition. Obviously, father time has ultimately caught up with me. However, I’m very curious and interested in what you said about, “What I’ll likely do is create a second set of guidelines for athletes 40+ and move in this direction. Older athletes need more restrictions to stay lean.” That really caught my attention and I can’t wait till you put those guidelines out. Continue what You and your Staff are doing, it’s very AWESOME.
    v/r,
    WILL.

  2. Guess if she wants me to live another 52 years she’ll get over it!

    Thanks for this, I’m going to follow your guidelines exactly as I switched my drinks to hard liquor a year or so ago and that has helped…but like you I have had a hard time dropped those last few pounds.

    52 ‘s a bitch…

  3. Rob, good article. Theres been a lot of great research on this type of diet, and the performance benefits show good results, but also those with certain medical maladys show a decrease in symptoms. My wife has adopted this diet for 5 months now and has had amazing results. Im about to follow suit. Whats interesting is that a high-fat diet is what my grandparents consumed and they were relatively healthy way into old age. The main point to emphasize is, avoid refined and simple sugars in any form, limit the carbs and keep the proteins moderate. Again, great article on your experiences.

  4. Excellent article Rob. Interestingly my personal doctor recommended almost the exact same thing as your current diet. About 2 years ago, I took his advice and kept my total carbs less than 100 grams/day. Not low or “keto-ish” as you described but fairly low. My results were identical to yours – I lost 7-8 lbs without trying. I’m 5ft 8in, have been 165-170 lbs most of my adult life, and followed a bodybuilder type approach to training (r.e. not much cardio). I do find my workouts suffer a bit when I keep carbs below 50 grams/day but think my body runs anaerobically more than it should for aerobic endurance. One of my goals for 2021 was to improve my aerobic base and associated aerobic endurance – which dovetails nicely into restricting carbs and losing bodyfat. At 57, I also find I need 2 days/week rest to recover. I add a day in the middle of the week, usually Weds, and take Sunday. I find your posts and training approach very interesting and informative – please keep us informed of your thoughts and findings!

  5. Rob,

    I am 44 LEO, who has switched to Keto as you described as well. I found dropping the 5-10 lbs is pretty simple if I am only considering myself and my goals and needs.

    The tension comes in when we meal plan for the family with 2 boys (13 and 16) who never stop playing sports, hunting, or training. The boys have to have a significant amount of carbs compared to my wife or I.

    The challenge for us is cooking all these great tasting carbs for them, smelling the food but not eating any of it.

    My tension is how to be sustainable on it. Cheat days are essential to avoid too much tension for having to cook separate for Dad and adding stress to an already busy week of family, sports, and activities.

    I think the balance is having a cheat day here or there to preserve the food budget and the sanity of the family unit.

    If I get too strict I fall into a place where I am selfish and putting my goals ahead of the peace of the family.

    In this season and extra 2-3 pounds (not 10-15) may be a small price for keeping the operation of feeding 2 growing boys sustainable while keeping a majority of my fitness goals. — Bryan

  6. Good article. Always enjoy your writing style and authenticity. I wish there were guidelines for women in there 40’s and 50’s, for diets that worked. I’ve tried Keto with very limited results and was not able to sustain the diet. Reading your article I am inspired to give it a try again.

  7. I’m a fan of your original nutritional guidelines Rob, looking at what you’ve posted I share your concerns with sustainability…I can’t see myself doing something like the Keto diet long term, so I know it isn’t for me. I’ll stick to the OG guidelines!

  8. I do a keto diet when i do my long hikes. I’m 50, and its the only time of the year i actually lose weight. Mcts or coconut oil in my coffee, a couple of packs of beef jerky and a gallon of water and i can go 20 miles without even thinking of food. Appetite suppression is wonderful and my hiking times are faster with fewer stops.

  9. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been considering keto lately. My only concern is with almost complete eliminating an entire food group (fruit). What benefits do we lose out on or nutrition we lack when we severely restrict a food group like that?

  10. Thanks for the summary Rob.

    A question for people who are vegetarians or pescatarians – does Gary Taubes give any guidance in dealing with the difficulty in maintaining sufficient protein intake without legumes? Is Keto even possible for people avoiding animal protein?

    Thanks,
    Alex

  11. I switched to keto about a year ago and have seen tremendous benefits. I also incorporate a 16 hour fast every day (stop eating around 7pm in the evening and nothing but black coffee, tea or water till at least 11am). I dropped a good amount of weight and my energy levels went up. I love doing an early morning bike ride or backcountry tour and not feel the need to eat to have energy.

    I use the Keto-Mojo blood test unit to know whether I’m in ketosis or not which is very helpful.

    It was a struggle for the first several months as a family to find how to incorporate higher fats and lower carbs for me without giving the rest of the family a high fat/high carb diet which isn’t a good combination. We’ve been able to find a good common ground though. The first 3-5 months though felt like I had to go through a mourning process since there were so many things taken off the list that I absolutely loved to eat.

  12. I resonated with the last bit, where you mentioned your diet conflicted with your partner. These more specific diets come at a cost most non-elite athletes aren’t willing to pay (hence cheat days and diet failure). No baked goods or alcohol? Not for me long term. Maybe I won’t be the next Ueli Steck, but I’m not trying for that anyways. What I lose in performance I’ll gain back multiple times over in quality of life. What I like about the current MTI diet is that it’s not fussy and doesn’t come at much of a cost. It’s all about moving in the right direction, and demanding a shift to clean eating is something most of us and our spouses can get behind. I’m glad you’ve done this research for those who want to take thier diet one step further.

  13. I’ve done something similar to this. As it turned out my cholesterol increased, a lot, from too many eggs and being 51. For what it’s worth, I’d recommend being mindful of cholesterol in a keto-ish diet.

  14. I did strict keto for a good few months. Never felt right in general but when adding physical activity my body made it very clear that fat was NOT it’s preferred fuel. I’m much happier and productive on a high carb diet. I’m currently eating 200+g carbohydrates most days. I eat a lot of fruit and potatoes. My favorite quick meal is air fried oil free potatoes and fat free refried beans with salsa mixed in.

    I also have seen way too many people reporting dangerously high cholesterol, liver issues, pancreas issues, etc from a high fat diet when I was in keto groups. It was always brushed off as people doing keto “wrong” by the keto community but given my family history of heart blockages it’s not a risk I was willing to take.

  15. Good article Rob. I am a 59 year old exercise physiologist and have been on a low carb diet with cycling keto for 7 years now. I also have my cheat/treat day(s). For fat loss I have found few things more effective for myself and my clients. I also found it to be every bit as effective for performance.

    At the time I transitioned from the higher carb diet I was doing a lot of long distance endurance races that our field told us required a significant number of carbs. I was consuming about 70% carbs at the time. After reading the book Low Carb Performance by researchers Dr’s Phinney and Voleck, I thought I’d give it a try.

    Once I got through the 6 weeks of transitioning my body from carbs to fats I did a 106 mile bike race that had 9,000 plus feet of climbing. I ate a steak and small salad the night before and a couple of eggs, almond butter and bullet proof coffee for breakfast. On the bike I had almond butter mixed with some honey and banana and only salted water in my bottles. I never rode better. At the 100 mile point I turned to my cycling partners and asked if they minded if I took off for the final 6. That was a consistent theme for the remainder of the time I did those races.

    There is significant research evidence that low carb athletes can compete at the same levels of strength and endurance as athletes eating a higher carb diet without the deleterious effects associated with the higher carb diets.

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