Saturday, June 22Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Editors Try… Keto

We try so that you don’t have to. 

So long carbs, it’s been fun.

In the first of a regular series, we, your Sports & Societies Editors, try various diets, trends and challenges so that you don’t have to.  

On the face of it the Keto diet is actually pretty simple: it’s a low or no carbohydrate diet. By eliminating or drastically reducing the amount of carbs you consume, it forces your body to burn its stores of fat for energy. I managed to rope my deputy editor Claudia into doing this with me and if you’re wondering how I managed that, well she’s currently living with me so she didn’t really have much of a choice; I wasn’t going to suffer through this alone. 

Like I said on the face of it, Keto seems simple as you’re only removing one food group from your diet. However, it just so happens that the food group you’re sacrificing tends to be one of the more significant ones. The Institute of Medicine states that on average, carbs make up anywhere from 45% to 65% of an adult’s daily intake. Off the bat you’re cutting out the single largest food group you eat on a daily basis. Bread? Gone. Pasta? Gone. Potatoes in all their glorious forms? You guessed it, gone. 

We’ve been doing the Keto diet for almost two weeks now and have had to completely overhaul our weekly meal plans. Our dinnertime (or tea as Claudia calls it- she’s northern but we don’t hold that against her) staples of pesto pasta, sausage & mash, and curry and rice have been replaced with chicken and vegetable stir fry, keto pasta and above all else, salads. Now I’ll be honest prior to this the closest I came to eating salad was picking the lettuce and tomato out of whatever burger I’d ordered at GBK; yeah, I’m that guy. 

I watch with disdain as dinner is prepared. Salad… again.

This isn’t a long-term diet, health experts recommend you do it for maximum about 4 weeks. Long periods of ‘ketosis’ are not good for the body. We’ve both quite quickly lost weight but we also have quite active lifestyles, working physically demanding jobs and exercising daily. No doubt our busy schedules are a benefit for Keto; you might not see as much change if you don’t put in the physical activity.     

Like any diet, Keto has side effects and we’ve experienced a fair few of them. The first is what’s referred to as ‘Keto flu’. Now this one we did manage to avoid but this may just be that after three years facing freshers’ flu, our immune systems are hardened beyond recognition. Along with some stomach issues and periods of insomnia, came the saddest of the side effects: hunger.

Now I won’t lie at the beginning of this undertaking I was hungry all the time. Almost all the reviews of Keto you read mention hunger suppression as one of the positives but let me tell you for the first five days my hunger was very much unsuppressed and I began to loathe our daily salads which were about as fulfilling as season 8 of Game of Thrones. And then, about a week in, I got it. I now no longer felt hungry all the time, I actually started enjoying our salads and I felt pretty good in general. Claudia on the other hand felt like she had no energy at all, and whilst I have been described as draining I don’t think it was all down to me.      

So, is Keto a fad? No I don’t think so; it’s an attractive diet for many and I can see why. You don’t have to count calories or macros, you are simply depriving your body of one food group whilst still eating healthily (in one day I had 8 different types of fruit and veg- that’s more than I’ve had in my lifetime), and losing weight quite rapidly as long as you can maintain a high level of calorific output through exercise. However, and this is the crux of the issue, would I recommend this diet to a student? Simply put, no. 

It’s impractical. It’s expensive, and the loss of energy is incompatible with the inevitable all-nighters. It’s hard enough writing a 3,000 word essay on the fall of the Western Roman empire that’s due 11am the next day, but when you’ve got no energy and are running off a handful of pecan nuts it’ll be nigh on impossible. Whilst dropping carbs for one or two meals a week is a great idea, doing it for a whole month is not advisable, if for no other reason than you can’t enjoy a pint; and in the current circumstances, I think we’ve all earned a few of those.

This won’t be the last time we subject ourselves to hardship in the name of journalism. Stay tuned for further issues where the editors try, so that you don’t have to!  

Owen Williams