I don’t know about you, but I’m getting older. As dancers we need to stay svelte, fit, and energetic.
When I was locked down in Italy I got too fat for my clothes, so I did 30 days of the Keto diet. It worked. And the really surprising thing about it was that I wasn’t hungry, so it was easy to keep to the diet. Lately, I’ve come across some fascinating information about Keto, so this post is a little introduction.
In short, Keto helps with anxiety, depression, OCD, epilepsy, mood swings, epilepsy, heart health, Lyme disease, autoimmune health, inflammatory disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Apparently for decades it’s been known as an effective remedy for epileptic seizures. More recently, a Harvard MD accidentally discovered that it helps with almost all psychological disorders! He had some clients with various diagnoses who wanted to lose weight. When they tried keto their mental illnesses went into remission and they were eventually able to eliminate pharmaceutical medication. Palmer went on to experiment with keto to understand its effects and discovered that the keto diet improves the health of our mitochondria, which enables our brains to function smoothly. His book about this is called Brain Energy.
Palmer is one of many scientists discovering the power of this diet to address physical, as well as psychological health.
For people who don’t have any health problems at all, reports on following a keto diet are that it gives more physical and intellectual energy and eliminates mood and energy swings during the day.
So what is the Keto diet?
Speaking in the crudest terms, there are 5 elements of food: carbohydrates, protein, fat, sugar, micronutrients.
Every food has some ratio of these elements.
- The foods that are primarily carbohydrate are: grains/flour (bread, pasta, cereal), tuber vegetables (the ones that grow under the earth, like potatoes), and beans.
- The foods that are primarily protein are: meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts & seeds, and meat-substitutes.
- There are different kinds of fats, from meat fat to dairy fat to vegetable oils. These all have different properties which have been heavily debated with regard to cardiovascular health. These days only transfats (highly processed fats) are considered to be definitely unhealthy.
- Vegetables are primarily about micronutrients. They have no fat, a little bit of carbs, and a little protein.
- Fruits have lots of micronutrients, and usually a lot of sugar which which functions like lots of carbs.
- Alcohol works like sugar.
For decades, “healthy” and weight-loss oriented diets have followed the route of: whole grains, beans, lots of vegetables and fruits, some protein, low salt, and very little fat of any kind.
Keto is radically different: While maintaining a high level of vegetables and a moderate amount of protein, it eliminates grains, beans, and tubers and replaces them with lots and lots of fat, of all kinds. It also reduces all kinds of sugars, including most fruit. The micronutrients missing from the fruit are compensated with more vegetables.
Without carbs, the body enters a state of “ketosis” (which can be measured with blood testers). In ketosis the body uses and burns fat. If it runs out of food fat, it burns bodyfat.
The miracle of this diet is that fat makes you satisfied and full. So you are never hungry!
Keto researchers (see the notes below) have learned that heart-related problems that were blamed on fats and salt are actually the fault of carbohydrates!
So, what do you eat?
Lots and lots of vegetables prepared with a variety of oils, topped with cheese, nuts, charcuterie, and olives. Eggs, meat, or meat-substitutes. For dessert anything very fatty with low to no sugar.
Instead of pasta or potatoes, you can steam a cauliflower and then put lots of butter or walnut oil on it.
For dessert, low-carb fruits like berries, and anything high fat and low sugar. There are lots of keto dessert recipes based on whipping cream or coconut milk.
Bread and pancakes can be made with any flours made from nuts or seeds, such as almond flour, coconut flour, linseed flour. Psyllium flour is very gelatinous and it takes the place of gluten to make baked goods stick together.
For drinks, coffee and green tea are fine, and full-fat cow (or goat) milks or nut milks (not soy, rice, or oat milk). Red wine is the lowest-sugar alcohol.
Unlike the standard “diet”, keto dieters do need plenty of salt. Salt is necessary for many functions of the body, but the keto diet reduces its absorption, so you need to add extra salt.
There are sugar substitutes. One of the most promising is allulose.
My experience and Vio-Keto
After 5 weeks of keto with one “cheat” day per week, I was back in my clothes. In addition to this short-term benefit I realized a long-term change. The constant craving for carbs is gone.
Now I do still eat carbs, but only as a treat, and only when they are really special, such as my very favorite baguettes or my favorite fruit tart. I no longer use carbs as a solution to hunger. For hunger I use cheese and nuts.
Since sugar is a huge pleasure for me and I am not willing to eliminate pleasure from my life, I do still eat sugar, but I try to eat it with lots of fat, which makes me satisfied faster, arresting the sugar intake as soon as possible. (So I eat ice cream rather than cake. I also do drink alcohol and eat fruit. But I’m finding that over time, and with bodybuilding, my craving for both alcohol and sugar is steadily reducing.
Relentlessly curious podcaster and bodyhacker Tim Ferriss has interviewed many keto researchers. You can start by listening to a podcast (or reading the transcripts), or go directly to their websites:
Peter Attia, MD and endurance athlete: podcast and website