Should Type-1 diabetics be on a keto diet?
I wanted to try the keto diet because it’s supposed to burn fat fast. The original ketogenic diet is a short-term, carb-cycling, fat-loss program, but it’s extreme and can be dangerous. Most people have modified the original ketogenic diet so that there are no more than 30-50 grams of carbs every day, as long as you are on the diet, with no exceptions.
People can and have fallen down or passed out from extremely low blood sugar due to so few carbohydrates. I was also nervous to try it because I’m a type-1 diabetic and have to take insulin injections, and the point of this diet is to prevent insulin from entering the bloodstream.
On the original keto diet, there are two high carbohydrate days in a row followed by five low carb days. The extremely high carbohydrates are supposed to prevent muscle loss on the low-carb days, which allow for a maximum of 30 grams of carbs each day, which is equivalent to one medium banana. The amount of calories on the low carbohydrate days during the week should also be low enough so that you’re in a deficit so you can burn fat.
This program is a weekly cycle. Some people do it between 1 to 4 cycles every so often. Others live off the keto diet. I decided to try it for 1 cycle: 7 days, but I didn’t want to harm my health. On the low-carb days, my plan was to cut my background insulin in half, and to test my blood sugar frequently to see if I needed to increase or lower the dosage. I was going to exercise in moderation to keep my blood sugar in the safe range. Unfortunately, omitting insulin altogether is not a good idea for a diabetic because the body produces glucose for energy regardless of what, or if, you are eating at all. This glucose, either from food, or made in the body, is what makes blood sugar rise if the pancreas isn’t producing insulin. This is why type 1 diabetics have to take “background” or “night time insulin” to make sure their blood sugar is stable 24 hours a day.
On that Saturday I couldn’t stomach 70% of my diet from carbs, it was just too much, and way more than I’m used to. The five apples were probably a bit too much fructose. I also wasn’t fond of giving myself that much insulin due to all the carbs I had to consume. On Sunday, it was much easier to eat 60% of my diet from carbohydrates.
The Monday through Friday low-carb regimen combined with exercise was going to be the biggest challenge. I would need little to no insulin during the daytime, which is great since I wouldn’t have to give myself injections, but with so little carbs, lifting weights, doing cardio and being a diabetic, I would have to be especially careful my blood sugar doesn’t go too low. The solution for low blood sugar is eating something sugary, which is carbs. I wouldn’t want to start the diet back over again so I made sure to never let my blood sugar get too low.
To prevent dangerous low blood sugar levels, I cut my typical 1 hour of weight training down to 30 minutes. I exercised at home so I wouldn’t have to drive. I also did only 20 minutes of light cardio instead of my usual 30 minutes of intense cardio. This allowed my blood sugar to be below 100 but no less than 80. I had to be careful not to let my blood sugar levels be too high either, so I checked my blood sugar with my meter before each meal.
What I enjoyed about this diet is that the low-carb days were also high fat days. Before I did my research I thought it was a high protein/low carb diet, but the keto diet is not high protein because too much protein could reverse the fat burning process and can harm the liver. The extra calories need to come from somewhere and if they can’t come from extra protein or carbs, the remaining macronutrient is fat. So I got to enjoy higher fat meals such as steak, salads loaded with dressing, veggies cooked in oil, nuts, and lots and lots of peanut butter. At the end of the week, I ate a half a jar of peanut butter!
It was odd eating so much fat, yet supposedly burning fat. I weighed my proteins, and used tablespoons for all the oils and nuts. I logged all my food into an application to make sure I was in the calorie range suggested per their formula, just under 1500 calories. I also used the app to make adjustments to my protein and fat intake to make sure those were in the correct ratios too.
On Wednesday morning of the 3rd low-carb day I was feeling lethargic from so little carbs and calories. I also wasn’t getting sufficient fiber since the fruit and oats I normally eat contain a lot of carbohydrates, which meant those were off the list. One that 5th day, my weight dropped 2 pounds and could see the possibility of a 6-pack in the future.
On Thursday, I gained a half a pound. On Friday, I gained another half-pound. All in all, I only lost 1 pound, which was mostly water weight. On the low-carb days I was starving, couldn’t do the things I normally do, and spent a lot of time weighing and logging all my foods. The bottom line is that this diet is quite a challenge with little reward. I don’t recommend it.
Photo: Avocados have healthy fat and pack a punch at 320 calories each