Knowledge

Thib goes Keto – Week 0

Christian Thibaudeau

Co-founder of Thibarmy, Trainer

Articles, Nutrition & Supplementation

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Thib goes Keto – Week 0

Thib goes Keto - Week 0

IMPORTANT: I’m writing this on September 26th, although it is being published a few days later

I’m a neurotype 2A. In traditional Chinese medicine, that makes me a “Water” type. What does that have to do with anything, you ask? When I give my seminar series on neurotyping, I always provide one word that describes each profile, as well as one sentence that describes how they should train but also gives us clues about how their brain works.

For the neurotype 2A, that word is “Variation”, and the sentence is “Everything works, but nothing works for long”.

Still, what does that have to do with me going “keto”? On the surface, nothing. But in reality, it has everything to do with my decision to give keto a serious try.

Once I better established my neurotype, I was able to understand why I’ve been acting the way I did for all my career.

If you have been following me for a decent amount of time, you know what I mean.  I seem to jump from one training style to another. I will write about now high performance training is the key to improving your body, and then a few months later I will talk about the superiority of mind-muscle connection/bodybuilding work, only to go toward back to the the basics, heavy lifting, a little later.  Not surprisingly, this has created some confusion among my followers. Heck even for myself!

Once I devoted myself to neurotyping, I understood the reason behind my seemingly drastic changes of heart.  For me, “everything works but nothing works for long“. So, at first, I get great results and that motivates me to write about them. But as soon as it stops working, or more accurately as soon as it stops motivating me, I move on to something else.

See that’s how a 2A brain works: something has to be interesting and fun for them to be (and stay) motivated. When it comes to training, what motivates me is learning the effect of certain methods and types of training and knowing why they work. Once I feel that I have a solid understanding of why and how something works, it stops being fun and I want to do something else.  This is why I once spent 3 months doing Crossfit or 5 months doing only gymnastic ring/body weight work and why I routinely change my training style.  When I don’t feel like I have something to learn I lose motivation.

Recently, I prepared for a photo shoot. It was interesting to me because it forced me to learn more about the various approaches to dropping to very low levels of body fat and how to peak properly for an event.  But now that it’s done I find myself in a rut.  The thing with an advanced Type 2A: I don’t have that many new training methods or styles to experiment with.

What is left is dieting.

And even though I was always a low carbs guy when trying to get lean, I never used a true ketogenic diet. When dieting with low carbs, my proteins were always too high and my fats too low to be a keto diet. Yes, it got me lean, but mostly through a caloric deficit and I never felt that great doing it. But since I had a goal I stuck with it.

I have lots of good friends that I consider super smart and in tune with their bodies reporting great improvements from going to a keto diet. So, I decided to try it out for myself and learn about it and how it affects the body.

My goal

Right off the bat, I will say that my main goal is learning as much as I can about keto dieting, and its impact on performance, body composition and mental function. I want to experience the various phases of becoming keto-adapted, the ups and downs, the potential problems and their solutions.

Of course, I do have somebody composition goals in mind: I want to stay lean or even get leaner while building a small amount of muscle and getting stronger. At my age and experience level, I’m not kidding myself, I won’t be building a lot of muscle. But I want to improve some weak points while rebuilding my strength, staying lean and feeling good.

I also want to see how a true keto diet will affect my health markers, considering that I have kidney problems.

My current situation

The photoshoot about 5-6 weeks ago. I was 199-200lbs (didn’t weigh myself the day of the shoot but that was my bodyweight the week of the shoot) at around 7% body fat.

I got there by using a fairly high protein (around 250g per day), low fat (around 50-60g per day) diet with rotating carbs (anywhere between 75 and 200g per day). I also did fast morning cardio (30-60 minutes depending on the day) and 1 or 2 training sessions per day (depending on if my wife trained with me or not). So basically, I got lean using good old caloric deficit: fairly low calories and high energy expenditure.

I will confess that I did feel like crap the last 4 weeks.

Once the shoot was done, I wanted to stay lean but not feel so crappy so I stuck with my photoshoot diet but had an all-out cheat day on Wednesdays as well as higher clean carbs on Sundays.

I did this for 4 weeks and managed to stay at 201-203lbs, so pretty darn close to the same condition as for my photoshoot.

I then went on a 2 weeks seminar “tour” in Poland and Bahrain, and while I did maintain a decent training schedule my eating took a turn for the worse.

At the moment (I came back for my trip yesterday), I’m 209lbs. I still look decent, mind you, and out of those 6-8lbs, it is pretty obvious that some is water retention from my last seminar (2 days ago) and a trip back home (12 hours of flying, plus 6 hours in airports and 3 hours of driving). I normally do retain water the day after flying, but still, I’m pretty sure that I added 3-4lbs of fat in those 3 weeks.

Nothing dramatic of course. The worst of it is that I lost a little bit of training motivation because of a lack of a specific goal.  So, I have decided to experiment with keto and how it affects performance, body composition and well-being because it gives me a goal and objective, which in turn gives me motivation.

Anyway, that’s where I stand at the moment: 209 lbs waking weight. I would estimate 9% body fat (I’m pretty good at estimating not like those social media pretenders). Let’s see where it will take me!

I’m also pretty free for the next 5-6 weeks. I do have a seminar in Boston with Dr. John Rusin on the 7th and 8th but that will not mess up my schedule since I’ll only be away from home for 3 days. Then I have a month off before going back on tour.  As such, for the next 6 weeks, I’ll be able to really focus on this experiment. By then, I should be fully keto-adapted (it can take anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks) and my next challenge will be staying the course for the 2 weeks while I’m in Europe.

The mistakes I made in the past…

When dieting down to get lean I’ve always been a low carbs guy, probably because I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. It’s really hard for me to eat a “moderate” amount of carbs, I either eat none or all of them! In fact, the diet I used for my last photoshoot was the highest carbs intake I’ve had on a cutting diet and on average I ate 100g per day (which is still very low for a guy my size).

But in the past, I’ve made several mistakes while going low carbs that made the process a lot more painful than it had to be and likely less effective too.

Here are some of these mistakes:

  1. Not eating enough fats. I always used a low carbs approach but I didn’t increase my fat intake accordingly. As a result, I quickly felt like crap while dieting down. When I have a goal, I can be really stubborn and could force myself to suffer and stick to the plan, but I was miserable. I also felt and looked flat all the time, got weaker and likely lost some muscle in the process. My libido also went down the drain really fast (it kinda sucks to have a great body but have zero interest in sex). So, this time around I will make sure that my fats are high enough to feel good, stay full and have energy in the gym. Furthermore, having the right balance of fats allows you to keep a high libido even when dieting down. Not to mention that eating more fats decreases hunger, which was really plaguing me during the last 4-5 weeks of my last diet.
  2. Eating too much protein. During most of my diets, I used a “bro diet” in which both carbs and fats were low and my protein was high. I’ve ingested as much as 400g of protein per day during some of my diets. The big problem with that is that it interferes with getting into a ketogenic state. Protein can easily be turned into glucose which prevents keto-adaptation. And while I still lost a lot of fat (because of a significant energy deficit) I felt bad, had low energy and problems focusing. Once keto adaption sets in, this should not happen. In fact, many say that they have never felt better than they do when they are keto-adapted. Can’t wait to find that out for me!
  3. Not eating the proper balance of fat. This is something I learned from Dr. Serrano. You need a good balance of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to function optimally. In the past, the few times I increased my fats I would simply consume more fish oil, which is good, but it screwed up my optimal fatty acid balance, especially since I was consuming mostly very lean meats, poultry and whitefish. After discussing with many people I really trust, I decided to use a ratio of roughly 30% saturated fats (coconut oil, MCT oil and the fat in my beef/eggs/chicken), 30% monounsaturated fats (mostly by supplementing with olive oil) and 40% polyunsaturated (mostly by supplementing with fish oil).
  4. Not drinking enough or consuming enough electrolytes. A lot of the “feeling like crap” when you go low carbs (keto or not) really comes from dehydration and a lack of electrolytes. Low carb diets increase diuresis (you pee more) which leads to a decrease in hydration (duh!) and electrolytes because you flush them out when you pee. This is especially true for potassium since low carb diets tend to be low in potassium, especially true keto diets where few veggies are consumed. During the last phase of my photoshoot prep, I went really low carbs (less than 50g per day) for 10 days. I also increased my fluid intake to 3 gallons per day while increasing sodium and potassium intake and never felt flat even without carbs. I also felt better than in the preceding weeks. High water and electrolytes (using a combination of salt and salt substitute/potassium with meals) will help you stay full and feel good when going low carbs.

These are the four main pitfalls I will try to avoid this time around.

So, consider this experiment started. I will update you every week on what I did during the week, what I learned, what I will change, etc.

Stay tuned!

– CT