If someone were to hold a popularity contest for diets, I’d put a hefty sum on the odds that and intermittent fasting would take out the top two spots.
The wellness trends have shown themselves to be the prom King and Queen of modern-day dieting, with all other substitutes paling by comparison (when it comes to clout, at least).
Both approaches to eating have been lauded for their weight-loss results, along with claims associated with mental clarity, improved skin and better sleep habits (among other things). So, it’s not hard to see the appeal for someone looking to overhaul their health routine.
When following the keto plan, you’re actively encouraged to dine on fried bacon and cheese – you just need to nix all carbs. And when fasting, you’re not restricted in the food you can consume – you just need to reduce your eating window by a good few hours.
Compared to the plans that see you eating half a grapefruit as a meal or forcing down a protein shake for dinner, these guys sound almost easy. So, it’s hardly surprising to see that people have begun combining keto and IF; creating a super-diet* of sorts.
Anecdotes have popped up all over the internet praising the results of this health combo, especially for those seeking to drop a considerable amount of weight. But internet virality does not make a diet good, my friends.
“There are definitely risks involved,” fertility and prenatal dietitian Melanie McGrice told me when I asked her about the trend.
“ … this diet is super strict, making it difficult to meet your nutritional requirements. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking it without the guidance of a healthcare professional.”
She explained that these diets can be effective on their own but combining them can compromise your health … even if you achieve your weight loss goals.
“You’re always going to achieve short term weight loss when you’re restricting calories so aggressively,” McGrice said.
“ … that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to keep the weight off, or that you’re optimising your health.”
Being that this is the fad diet of the moment, however, it seemed only appropriate that I test it out first hand.
Here’s how my week of keto and intermittent fasting went …
IT BECAME VERY DIFFICULT, VERY QUICKLY
I moved through day one with relative ease, but woke up on day two, starving.
By the end of the week, I was lying in bed for hours every morning. I’d try to sleep for as long as possible in an attempt to make my body forget it was hungry.
Weekends were also impossible to navigate. On two occasions I ate after my cut off time: once because dinner in a restaurant stretched out longer than I expected, and another time because I got home 15 minutes late. Sorry, guys. But I wasn’t missing a meal while already restricted in my eating.
THE SIDE-EFFECTS WERE BAD
I should premise this by sharing that I have tried a keto diet before, and while the side-effects sucked, they didn’t last too long. This time around, they were much worse.
By day two, I was irritable and tired. Working out became noticeably harder. I was constantly dehydrated and forever needing to pee. My anxiety flared up considerably, and menial tasks started taking up more energy than necessary.
McGrice warned me about most of the above, but it was the last side-effect that worried me.
On day three, a rash appeared on my legs.
It looked like clusters of tiny bumps, kind of like ingrown hairs. It got progressively worse, and by day five, I was no longer sleeping through the night because of how itchy my skin was. By the evening of day six, the rash had spread to my arms. It took about three minutes of Googling how bad keto rash can get before I was panic-eating a slice of bread.
THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS WERE NOT WORTH IT
Did this diet leave me looking thinner? Sure. But at the expense of a calm headspace, my energy levels and my skin health. Even if this was just a rough patch that would have soon blown over, it’s not a trade-off I’d be willing to make again.
“ … what works well for one person, isn’t necessarily the best choice for the next,” McGrice told me.
“For optimal weight loss, I’d highly recommend an individually-tailored consultation with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.”
And remember: extreme, restrictive dieting is never going to be the answer.
* Slight exaggeration
This article originally appeared on Body & Soul and was reproduced with permission