My journey from classical Mediterranean diet to Keto
Growing up in a Greek kitchen
As most of the people who grew up in the area of Southeast Mediterranean basin, I was raised believing that bread and pasta should be the base of every meal, definitely not something keto friendly. Especially in Greece, the Mediterranean diet is determined to have a lot of starchy carbohydrates which makes it quite opposite from healthy. Of course, as a young adult, I got excited and interested in bodybuilding and fitness. Back then in the ’90s, it was very popular to base the nutrition for energy, sufficiency and performance on the infamous carbohydrates.
My traditional Greek diet rich in potatoes, more or less integral wheat products, rice, oats, etc… was slightly enriched with some exotic ingredients, such as sweet potatoes. On the other side, my protein intake was suddenly tripled to what was considered as average. I mainly ate chicken breasts, lean red meat, and occasionally fish.
Supplements and superpowers
As an athlete, I started playing basketball, followed by amateur bodybuilding training and I cannot say that I had the best results. I didn’t know that performance and power come from life-changing habits. Foolishly I thought if I load my self with supplements I will have superpowers. Now, this is not something unusual. Many young people in their early 20s are often seduced by the fitness industry which is high commercialised and promotes usage of artificial boosters and “magic” products made in secret laboratories. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of modern post-industrial fever.
Little have I known, before I started studying sports science and nutrition, that some of the healthiest foods grow and swim in my country. Expensive boxes of imported whey proteins, BCAAs, creatine, etc… cannot even compare with the benefits of olives, all kinds of fish, grass-fed butter, full-fat cheese, Greek yoghurt, sour cream and all the other supreme foods that I have discovered once I reached keto station.
My journey, of course, did not take sudden turns. As a natural bridge between classical athlete approach to macronutrient balance and strict keto plan, I spent some years experimenting with various healthy diets. Among them, I would like to talk about the Paleo diet. In my opinion, the Paleo approach is the healthiest philosophy that any human can follow. When I compared the eating habits of my ancestors I realised that it was quite Paleo-friendly. Now you might say that this cannot be true because ancient Greeks and Romans ate a lot of grains. Whoever claims this, keeps forgetting that wheat back then wasn’t as harmful as today’s genetically modified version is. This wheat which was used to make bread in the ancient times was called T. Monococcum or as we call it today -Einkorn.
Ancient grains and today’s poison
Einkorn is wheat of our ancestors and it’s something that is no longer available to us! New, so-called, dwarf wheat (Triticum aestivum), is a product of hybridising, crossing and genetic manipulation, carried out by agricultural scientists over the last 55+ years. This short, flaky, hard plant resistant to climatic conditions, pesticides, and diseases are created.
Today, however, there are many reasons why wheat products cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, depression, obesity, autoimmune diseases and many other “modern” illnesses. Modern wheat destroys our health through many mechanisms and the history of “new” wheat goes parallel with the history of “new” chronic diseases around the world. Although today’s bread may look the same as bread from hundred years ago, and although it may have the same taste, there are still many biochemical differences. So, it is very clear that ancient people had supreme food compared to today’s industrial wheat. Not to mention that all the animals were fed with natural sources, the environment was not polluted and there weren’t additives and conservatives. I will write more about this in an article devoted to wheat.
It’s all about the nutrition
It’s really easy to get confused if you are not into fitness and nutrition lifestyle. I was really lucky to study and experience these from first hand. The most difficult part was, is and will be the nutrition! Without even going to the gym or doing any form of exercise, you will be able to see dramatic transformation through nutrition. Nutrition is not a bench press or a deadlift. When you see somebody you don’t know if they bench 50 or 150 kilos. But, from the body type, you can realise if they have good or bad nutrition.
Nutrition, for me, is a weapon. If you know how to use it properly, it will bring you to another level.
In our life, we are passing through different phases of eating habits. I remember when I had 5000 calories daily. Every two hours I was hungry, my insulin was playing literally ping-pong. As a nutritionist, I had to apply different diets and I was experimenting with myself. I had to know how it works and what results could it bring. To tell you the truth, my approach to a low carb diet wasn’t the best. I had prejudices. Believe me, even in the nutrition books it’s written that carbohydrates are a “must”! Finally, after years, I made peace with my mind and I introduced myself to Paleo diet.
Paleo diet was the ignition for what is going on today. It worked like a shuttle which transferred me to a new world. After several months on the Paleo diet, I felt much better and more healthy. My performance was really good as well as my diet. But still, I was missing something, something that will boost my energy, my cognitive abilities, my general wellbeing. I spent countless hours reading books and searching the internet for a game changer. It happened so naturally. Ketogenic diet came to my life and brought so many answers that I kept searching for.
My Keto Strategy
The first week of my keto journey was not that difficult at all! Many people complain that they have fatigue, sugar cravings, headache, constipation, nausea… I barely had a mild headache and some power misbalance in the gym. By the time I reached the second week of eating 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs, I reached the full state of ketosis. This was a huge success. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t reach it so fast, remember each of us is different.
Personally, since I am on Keto diet I started with 4 meals per day the first week. The second week I reduced the meals to 3 and now I have only 2 per day. I try to consume the meals approximately in a window of 8 hours so I can fast for 16+ hours. Sometimes before my training, I will add an extra keto coffee with butter and coconut oil to break my fast before the training. To tell you the truth, I don’t calculate the calories and macros for my meals anymore. I am doing it based on my experience. I know exactly how much I have to eat without to worry about calories. Keto diet is giving us the opportunity to escape from this medieval nutritional thinking of calories in and calories out.
Forget the scale
Throw the scale away, just keep your image in the mirror! Keto diet is a revolutionary tool to stop this nutritional terrorism against ourselves. At this point, I would like to suggest to people who just started or would like to start the keto diet to download an application which will help them to calculate their macros. The application will help you in the beginning to have an image of the meals, so in the future, you will be able to create a meal without worrying about the macros.
Keep it simple and try not to snack between your meals, because our main goal is to suppress insulin. Also, try to have the same eating pattern every day and eat the biggest meal of the day in your post-workout meal.