Lessons learned from a 8 Weeks Keto Diet for my Travel Preparation
Staying in shape or following a diet can be very challenging while traveling. I am on the road a lot, and I also struggle to maintain fitness and keep up with my diet. For this reason I decided to try KETO, and I want to share lessons learned from my 8-week KETO DIET for travel preparation.
I'd like to share with you all I've learned and the results of the keto diet for my travel preparation. If you've tried dieting before, if you travel a lot or if you just want to be in shape and look and feel your best before your vacation - this 8 week keto diet for travel preparation guide will help you tremendously.
Anyone who loves to be fit and have tons of energy to explore, understands that the challenge is real while on the road! It is far more difficult to eat your healthy meal plan when traveling. Either the available options don't match with our optimal plan, or you are not going to deny yourself the experience of trying local dishes. After all, when in Rome...eat like a Roman...right? Yes...but with discipline.
For quite a few years I have been eating 6 meals per day. This is a somewhat typical diet for an athlete. I ate a lot of protein and cycled carbs and fats. It increased my metabolism, and I was always hungry. It was not a sustainable lifestyle for me. Besides being hungry all the time, I was also lacking energy.
Finding life balance between being fit while feeding my wanderlust is hard – but wait a minute, I am the one who talks about finding life balance between travel and a healthy lifestyle!
Yes, I was struggling too, and I had to find an alternative – the answer was to try the Keto Diet for my travel preparation!
With 8 weeks between trips to Brazil and Namibia, I decided to try keto and learn as much as I could and measure my performance during this time. I am happy to share my experience step by step with you.
My main goals to do a keto diet for a travel preparation:
- Due to my travel schedule, I wanted to reduce from 6 to 3 meals per day. It is hard to have that many meals on the road.
- I wanted to step way from taking supplements to keep sport performance and muscle size.
- I didn't have a lot of body fat to loose, but I still wanted to get leaner for my next trip
- More importantly, I wanted to see the benefits of a keto diet - good energy level throughout the day, sleep well, and better concentration
- Keto diet is also a great alternative for performance if you are going on a long trek, hike or travel at high altitudes.
Check this out: Hiking the Himalayas fitness guide preparation
Also, the great news about Keto diet is even if you are not a very active person or never dieted before, the Keto diet can still works wonders for you - I have seen and heard amazing inspiring stories of people who shed pounds of body fat with the Keto diet.
The Keto Diet - Quick Overview
You've probably already heard about the ketogenic diet. It's not like other diets where you may feel hungry all the time, struggle with low energy or feel deprived. The keto diet will offer you great energy throughout the day and you'll notice body fat weight melt away.
The keto diet basically turns your body into a fat-burning machine by using fat as the main fuel source!
When you are in ketosis (dietary induced ketosis in this case), your body burns fats for energy. When we consume carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, potato...) the body converts them into glucose for energy first and uses fats second. Excess glucose is then stored as fat. On a keto diet, your body will be in a metabolic state where it will burn fat instead of carbs. Fats are the fuel!
When your body can’t get glucose from your diet, your liver turns body fat and fat from your diet into molecules called ketones, an alternative source of fuel. This puts you into ketosis, aka prime weight loss mode.
Note: A keto diet is made up of mostly good fats (~60%), moderate protein (~30%) and a small amount of carbs (~10%). There is NO sugar at all! If you love sugar, don't freak out yet! Cutting the sugar intake from your diet is easier than it sounds.
Ketosis is a normal biological process that occurs when your body doesn't have enough carbs (glucose) to burn for energy. Instead, the body burns fat and makes ketones, which it can use for fuel. For healthy people who don't have diabetes and aren't pregnant, ketosis usually kicks in after 3 or 4 days of eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
There are different types of keto diets, including the standard diet, cyclical keto and dirty keto - you will see that I started with a standard diet for 4 weeks and then I had to adapt to cyclical keto.
You can read more about ketosis and keto diets here
The benefits of a Keto Diet
Besides losing weight quicker than other diets, keto has so many other benefits that should be taken into consideration. Here are the main benefits that will make you love it and want to give the keto diet a shot:
- Burns body fat: The keto diet quickly boosts weight loss because your body turns fat from your diet and your fats stores into ketones. Unlike glucose, ketones can't be stored as fat, because they are not digested the same way.
- Increases energy: This is my favorite part of the keto diet! This happens because your brain uses ketones for fuel and we don't experience the same energy highs and lows through the day as we do when we eat lots of carbs and sugars. More energy to get things done!
- Reduces appetite: Different than taking pills to reduce your appetite (which is not a healthy choice, but this is a topic for another article), ketones suppress ghrelin, our hunger hormone and increase cholecystokinin (CCK), which makes us feel full and reduces our appetite. Great for when we are on the road traveling, right?
- Reduces Inflamation: The keto diet can reduce inflammation in our bodies by switching off inflammatory pathways and producing fewer free radicals compared to glucose. We all want to be young forever to continue to travel 🙂
- Curbs Craving: Remember when I said even if you love sugars it wouldn't be as hard as it sounds to cut it from your diet? Fat is a satiating macronutrient, and since we eat smarter fats on a keto diet, we can feel fuller longer.
- Fuels our brain: Last but not least, did you know that our brain is made up of more than 60% fat? When we are in a ketogenic state, the quality of fat we eat not only feeds our day-to-day activities, but also feeds our brain. Mental clarity can be heightened while in ketosis. Studies are also showing that a keto diet is a potential therapy for alzheimers.
First: "Consult a health professional before you attempt any diet"
Now that we understand what a keto diet is (60/30/10 - Fats/Protein/Carbs) and the main benefits behind it, if you are eager to attempt it, consult a health professional to make sure the keto diet is a good fit for you.
I am not a scientist or health professional, therefore, I am not sharing the technical aspects of the ketogenic diet. For this reason I do a lot of research and also consult health professionals before I attempt any change to my diet. First I did a consultation with my doctor and did blood tests including measuring all the hormones prior to start.
I also consulted my great friend and one of the most well known scientists behind Ketogenic Therapies- Dr. Dominic D'Agostino. His research is uncovering many different benefits related to diseases and the ketogenic diet as a therapy for cancer, alzheimers, seizures, and much more. If you would like to learn more about the scientific aspects of the keto diet, I strongly recommend you to visit his website and watch his podcasts on YouTube.
Ask your doctor if you need any supplements such as magnesium, sodium or potassium - the main electrolytes, and make sure you drink plenty of water, especially if you workout during the keto diet.
What food should you eat at a Keto Diet
But what exactly should we be eating when we are are doing the keto diet?
Simply put - eat mostly healthy fats, some protein and very small amount of carbs. You will need to determine your total calorie intake goal. While keto diet macros can vary from person to person, the general formula should be:
- 60-75% of your calories from fat
- 15-30% of your calories from protein
- 5-10% of your calories from carbs
What to eat - The best way to get started is to keep it simple, the graphic on the right is an example of my keto diet:
Make sure your meat is grass fed: Ethically treated, grass-fed meat is better for you. It is much leaner than its conventional counterpart since the toxins and suchlike tend to accumulate in the fat of the animal. Grass-fed meat has better fat quality, specially it has significantly more anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats and significantly fewer inflammatory Omega-6 fats. To help you to follow a great Keto Diet plan, I am offering this great deal to you!
Here you can find a whole list of foods you should include in your keto diet, and as you can see, there is a large variety of ingredients. You can be creative when you are cooking your meals, and it should not be too hard to find a restaurant or a local cafe where you can have a keto meal.
What you should do before you start your Keto diet
I truly believe that the scale won't tell you the whole story on how your body is going respond to a new diet. For this reason, I recommend doing the following on day #1 of your keto diet:
1- Set your goals:
- Be clear and honest about your goals - if you are looking to lose weight, increase your energy, get leaner and stronger
- Set your level of commitment to achieve your goals
2- Take before photos and measurements:
- Take front and profile photos of yourself.
- Record your weight and take any measurements you want.
3- Calculate your calories and macros:
- You will need to determine your total calorie intake goal. Keep in mind keto diet macronutrient counts can vary from person to person depending on your goals and your version of the keto diet.
- Use this calculator to determine your calorie and macros.
4- Download apps to help you to keep on track:
- Carb Manager - This is a great app that walks you through setting up your diet macros and calories. With the free version you can do everything you need to keep on track with your keto diet.
- My Fitness Pal - The gold standard of calorie counting apps. It’s also the most popular, supporting the largest food database in the game. Plus download recipes.
- FatSecret - Basic, simple, and free, it is a great calorie tracker. It’ll allow you to connect with other users, plus it’s got a barcode scanner for caloric content from labels.
How to know you are in ketosis
It is very important that you measure results not only in how your clothes fit or on the scale, but especially tracking your ketone levels over time.
You will be in ketosis if you measure 0.5-3.0 millimolers per liter. How do I measure that?
The best and most accurate way to measure is to invest in a blood ketone monitor. (If you are on a budget, you can get the urine strips, but I find them a little tricky to read accurately.) With a prick of your finger, a ketone monitor can accurately measure your ketone level.
A level of 0.5 millimolers can only be achieved through a ketogenic diet. The higher your ketone level, the more fat your body is converting to energy.
I have seen lows of 0.4 (in the morning) to as high as 3.4 (super-ketogenic). In my 8 weeks, I have not yet found the magic formula to maintain really high ketosis, but I've been pretty consistently in ketosis.
What the 8 weeks Keto diet for travel preparation looks like
WEEK 1 & 2 - Be aware you may have to face the Keto Flu
These are the hardest weeks of the Keto diet since you will have to face the cravings and you may have symptoms of the Keto Flu. I had the Keto Flu for a couple of days and it was tough! Did I think about quitting? Yes! But I stuck with it and my body adapted.
Keto Flu is a natural reaction when your body undergoes as it switches from burning sugar (glucose) to fat for energy and it usually kicks in at the 24 to 48 hour mark after you start the keto diet plan.
Keto Flu symptoms are the body's reaction to insulin levels reducing (this is good). You might notice temporary side effects such as headache, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, constipation, trouble sleeping, nausea or stomach ache.
If you experience some of the symptoms above, you can try to hydrate all day, supplement with electrolytes , eat more fat, get good rest, exercise or/and meditate, take exogenous ketone supplements especially MCTs oils
During the first couple of weeks you will be experimenting with new recipes and perhaps foods you are not accustomed to eating. Make sure you stock up on some good keto friendly foods to enable your menu choices. Avocados, whole eggs, nuts, grass-fed red meat, chicken thighs, chicken wings, bacon, nut flour, coconut milk, high fat/low protein cheeses, etc.
Get rid of sugars. There are great alternatives to kill the sweet cravings. One of my favorites is a mousse made with coconut cream and cacao. As you may know, most fruits contain a lot of sugar and are not keto friendly. If you feed your body sugars, it won't go into ketosis and fat burning will be impaired.
Set yourself up for success...start with a keto kitchen and have fun experimenting!
WEEK 3 & 4 - Introduction of Intermittent fasting.
At this point you should be adapting to your new eating habits. You feel motivated as you will see the changes in your body and energy level. Cravings will be more in control and you may notice improvements in your sleep and mood.
During week 4 I felt confident enough to introduce intermittent fasting into my weekly routine.
With intermittent fasting, you eat all your daily calories within a shortened period - typically 8 hours - and fast for the remaining 16-20 hours. Fasting gets you into ketosis and keeps you there - it also drains your body of its glucose reserves, so you switch over to burning fat for energy.
For me, fasting consisted of skipping breakfast and having a late lunch. For someone who was used to eating every 2-3 hours, this actually turned out to be easier than I expected. So, dinner at 7PM and my next meal at 1PM the next day gave me a 16 hour fast.
WEEK 5 & 6 - This is when I had to incorporate the Keto Cycle Diet into my routine.
Since I am a very physically active person, I started to lack energy and strength at this point. I added 150 grams of carbs 3 days a week and I started to see improvements on my energy level without gaining any weight with the extra carb intake.
In this case your body can cycle in and out of ketosis without interfering in your energy level or body fat.
Note: The additional carbs added on the Keto Cycle Diet should be mostly from vegetables.
WEEK 7 & 8 - Yeah! I made it and I survived pretty well.
At the end of my 8-week keto diet challange for my next trip I felt that keto is really a lifestyle that I can follow.
I dropped 6 lbs. of body fat! I love the freedom to have only 3 meals a day while maintaining my body weight, and most importantly, I love how I feel. My energy level is high throughout the day, and my mood is awesome! I feel more controlled and stress level measurament shows very low level. Winner!
- I love the freedom to eat only 3 meals per day
- Cutting my supplement intake (such as eliminating BCAA and Protein Shake)
- Great energy level throughout the day
- Maintain strength during my work out
- Be creative with my cooking
- Loosing body fat, while maintaining muscle mass
- Improved quality of sleep
- More stable mood, including controlled level of stress (measured with my Garmin watch)
- You may struggle with the keto flu during the first week
- I felt starving during the first two weeks, as I cut snacks between meals. It takes about 2-3 weeks to adapt to the keto diet
- Controlling carb intake can be challenging, carbs are pretty much everywhere
- Even if I don't consume a lot of sugar, cravings will occur some days
- You may not lose weight, and if your main target is to do the keto diet to get lean for that trip these are the things that may happen if you are not losing weight.
Maintaining Keto Diet during the traveling
If you are looking to maintain the keto diet during your travels, you have many options for meals:
Rent a hotel with a kitchenette or a whole place on Airbnb - You will be able to grocery shop for your ingredients and prepare your own meals and carry them with you.
Prepare and Plan - I always carry some snacks with me before I travel such as nuts, MCT oil, raw coconut butter...
Search for Places - Take the time to search for restaurant options around where you will stay and check the menu before you go, so you will be sure that you can find a ketogenic meal on the menu.
Conclusion of Keto diet for Travel Preparation
I DON'T believe in dieting - Yes, you read it right. I don't believe in dieting, but I do believe in a healthy LIFESTYLE. Step away from an inconsistent and yo-yo dieting lifestyle. Lose weight during a period of time of your life, then we go back to old eating habits where we eat more and gain weight back. It doesn't have to be that way!
DO NOT start the Keto Diet during your travel - Not only the keto diet, but any diet will have an adaptation phase from the nutrition change and how your body will adapt. Remember I described the Keto-Flu phase in the first week? We don't want to have to go through while on the road, right?
Skip the super calorie-restrictive diet: You don't need (and shouldn't) be hungry cutting your calorie intake. Healthy fats fill you up longer than carbs and proteins. Eat good quality fats, moderate protein and just enough carbs to feel satisfied and energized throughout the day. Obviously restrict your calories to a reasonable amount, but don't starve yourself.
Eliminate the SUGAR from your life: Sugar is poison to our bodies! We don't need this nutrient to control stress or to make us feel better! Cut the processed juice, soda, or any sugar junk food from your lifestyle!
Keep Healthy Eating Habits: It’s not going to help meet any of your health goals to go crazy with donuts, pizza, and sugary lattes, but brown rice, higher-sugar fruits, sweet potatoes, and even whole-grain bread can supply your body with nutrient-dense sources of carbs.
Make sure your meat is grass fed: I need to reinforce that the quality of your food is key for the success. Grass fed meat is much leaner than its conventional counterpart since the toxins and suchlike tend to accumulate in the fat of the animal. Grass-fed meat has better fat quality, specially it has significantly more anti-inflammatory. To make sure you will have a success experience with the keto diet, I am offering this great deal to you!
Keep track on your daily calorie intake - For any diet you follow, it can be a great opportunity to learn about calorie nutrition and what it does to your body and health. Calculate how much energy you burn vs. how much you consume in a day. Use apps to help you throughout your journey and enjoy the ride!
Do Keto Cycle Diet if you do exercise: If you exercise to maintain or build muscle, you may need to cycle your keto diet to keep your muscles fed with enough protein.
Keto is not a "fit all diet" - Yes, you read it right! I am not here to tell you "you need to follow the keto diet if you want to lose weight and feel amazing" ... Keto may not be the right diet for your lifestyle. But the most important piece of advice I can give you is: FIND THE NUTRITION AND HEALTHY HABITS THAT ARE RIGHT FOR YOU AND BE CONSISTENT!
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know - I would love to hear from you. Travel and be Healthy everyone!
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