There has been some talk over the internet lately that suggests that Keto over 40 doesn't work. Don't believe the lies. Keto is for EVERYONE.
Maybe there are some of us who don't want to jump right up and admit our age.
Yes, both Brenna and I are over 40, but we don't feel like it.
Being thin with great overall health and high energy levels has sure helped with staying active.
I (Thom) have lost 50 pounds on Keto.
I did it without starving and I have kept it off for over over two years.
I did it with a Ketogenic diet. I ate healthy fat, moderate protein, and I did some intermittent fasting.
So, I thought since there are some of you that are also past the big four-O, I would show you how I did it.
Keto Works if You are Over 40
Start with Realistic Goals
I remember when I started Keto. I had this Idea that I could be some kind of Instagram fitness model.
(haha) Brenna was kind in how she disabused me of that notion. I will never be an Instagram model.
She was right (she loves it when I say that).
That's just not realistic. A fat-stressed-out-over-40-guy is not going to transform into a 20 something fitness model.
But then I saw that if I ate a low carb high fat diet I could get thinner and have the energy to enjoy the life that I want.
The one place that I have had a problem with in this area is the obsession with the scale.
So I stopped it....
You can't set arbitrary weight goals, and then jump on the scale constantly to see how you're doing.
It is a lot better to check the mirror and see how your clothes are fitting. If you really must weigh yourself, only do it once a week.
And be patient. This is hard for some of us.
Don't Eat Too Much Protein
You want to eat enough protein to maintain your muscles, but if you eat too much the extra protein turns into sugar.
What we're going for with protein is the "Goldie-Locks-zone" - just the right amount.
The right amount is different for different people, depending on how much lean muscle mass they have, how active they are, and gender.
You can get an idea of your protein requirements and all of your macros from our Castle in the Mountains Keto calculator.
Women are more sensitive to over consumption of protein.
And, women over 40 can have a weight loss stall or even gain weight from eating too much protein. (Unfair, but true).
Don't Eat Too Much Fat
This is a common misconception about Keto.
Keto is not a free pass to eat all the fat you want.
You can't gorge yourself on bacon-wrapped-deep-fried cheese sticks and expect to lose weight. 5000 calories of fat is still 5000 calories.
Even though one of the great joys of Keto is eating the fat that our bodies run so well on, ultimately calories still matter.
One of the great parts about eating fat is that it makes you full and keeps you full, and even when you're not full you don't get hungry.
In fact eating 5000 calories of fat in one day would would actually be pretty hard to do because you would uncomfortably stuffed.
Some people think that they have to eat a set amount of fat, and that is not quite true either.
As long as you don't eat carbs, and you eat enough protein (but not too much) to maintain your muscles you'll lose weight.
Even if you don't eat fat, you will just burn body fat - that's what it's there for.
But again, the good fats help keep you full and keep cravings at bay so you don't blow the whole day on a binge because you're starving.
Stick with Full Enough
This is a mindfulness thing.
In the beginning it is probably a good idea to track your macros. Don't worry if counting calories is not your thing, you won't have to do this forever.
If you don't want to count grams of this and that, you can pay attention to how full you feel after eating, and how hungry you get when you don't eat.
After being a carb eating, sugar burner for a long time you can become used to feeling too full, and expect that as how you should feel every time you eat.
What to do:
Reset these expectations by eating "the right amount" of Keto food for you, and then be very conscious of how full you feel.
Track it at first and learn to listen to your body.
You will be able to train yourself to eat the right amount without even thinking about it.
Watch Out for the Sneaky Carbs
There are a couple of ways that carbs can sneak back into your diet.
Sneaky carbs can pop up in places that you just don't expect them.
There are 14ish net carbs in a cup of chopped onions. Who would have thought that?
And, who would have thought that blueberries have almost twice the carbs of any other berry?
The other way that carbs sneak back into our diets is the little things like condiments.
Stuff like ketchup, honey mustard and non-Keto salad dressings, have a way of finding their way back into our pantries.
These things are not the end of the world, but if you hit a wall, you will want to check your condiments.
If you get to a point where you are hungry or your weight loss is stalled, it could be the hidden carbs.
Don't Be Afraid to Fast
The most Ketogenic thing you can eat is...wait for it...nothing.
What that means is intermittent fasting.
When you're already in Ketosis, and you stop eating for a couple days, you burn nothing but body fat because that is all that there is, and your insulin is low enough to access it.
This is a great way to start Keto, but you will have to power through the hunger that comes from being a carb burner.
If you are already in Ketosis, you can just stop eating, and you won't really notice (too much).
I fasted for three days, and the only difference I noticed was that I had a lot more time in the day. All that time that I would have spent eating, was now available to do other things.
If I stall out on weight loss, what I usually do is just not eat for 24 hours, and it jump starts the fat burning again.
If I cheat and knock myself out of Ketosis, I fast. Unless I eat ten pounds of pasta, I get right back in Ketosis once the carbs have burned.
Even if you are not Keto or on a low carb diet, there are all sorts of benefits to fasting.
Fasting doesn't have to be super long to get you the benefits.
On a typical day, I fast for 16 hours. What that means is that I only eat between noon and 8:00 PM.
You can do longer fasts - I did a three day fast and actually enjoyed it. But remember Keto is about living better, it's not a miserable hunger strike.
One of the great things about the Keto diet is that you can have an adult beverage from time to time and it's not a problem.
Coors Light has only 5 carbs, and a glass of dry wine has even less. Hard liquor has zero carbs.
But if you do have a weight loss stall and are a drinker... alcohol could be to blame.
Even though you are meeting all of your macros, if you hit a plateau, you might want try to cut out the alcohol first. (This may not be a popular piece of advice but it's true).
Don't worry, it's not forever and you are still are an adult.
If you would like an extensive explanation of Keto and Alcohol click here.
We even have some Keto friendly classic cocktails recipes.
They increase your appetite. And, your cravings for sweets will not go away.
If you drink diet soda or use sucralose (Splenda) or aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) you should stop.
Even without carbs, the chemicals in the sweeteners are really bad for you.
Stevia and Monk Fruit are natural and they aren't unhealthy in moderation. But you still have the appetite thing going on.
When you taste sweetness, your brain thinks that it is going to get some sugar, and when it doesn't get that sugar, your brain will make you hungry.
Most Sugar Alcohols are not very well tolerated, i.e. they have a laxative effect on most people if you eat too much.
The healthiest sweetener is probably allulose which is an actual sugar, but has no calories and creates no insulin response.
Erythritol (Swerve) is a sugar alcohol, that most people tolerate pretty well in small amounts, but it effects different people differently.
I have no problem with erythritol, but Brenna can have a problem if she eats too much.
Seriously though, if you have to a little sweet in your coffee you have options.
We have a whole post about sweeteners if you would like more info.
Leave the Stress Behind...
It seems kind of weird to me that stress would cause you to gain weight, but it does. There are evolutionary reasons for this, and I won't go into that too here.
The over simplified version of what happens is stress stimulates the release stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol, to help you fight or flee.
Adrenaline and cortisol cause the release of insulin so you will have all available energy sources to fight well or flee fast.
The problem for us modern people is that our stress does not tend to be something where fighting or fleeing is of much benefit.
The stress then hangs around and becomes chronic stress. What that means is that you body is constantly on high alert with high levels of the stress hormones and the insulin.
The problem is that adrenaline cortisol direct most of the energy to your extremities and away from other functions like rational thinking.
And of course the heightened insulin blocks you from burning fat.
So what can be done? There are two courses of action that are very effective: meditation, and exercise.
Meditate on what is the actual cause of your stress. This process by itself is relaxing, but it has the added benefit of directing energy to rational thinking and that can solve the problem that is causing the stress in the first place.
You can also train your mind to know that an angry boss is not the same as an attacking bear, and being short of money at the end of the month is not the same as being chased by a lion.
Exercise is another great way to deal with stress, and it has lots of other benefits too.
If you really have some severe stress you might want to chose a punching bag kind of exercise, like kick boxing.
If you want to combine exercise and meditation, walking, running or yoga might be just the thing.
Don't be afraid to talk to someone if you need to. Brenna and I have both seen therapists at different times in our lives to help relieve stress and PTSD.
Brenna especially, thought it was ridiculous and wouldn't help. But it did help and no one tried to keep us on the couch for decades (like she thought they would).
Do one thing each day that's out of your comfort zone....
I am not saying you need to careen down a mountain on a snowboard to accomplish this....
It may be trying a new food, or cooking a new dish. Maybe you are finally perfecting the lotus position or making a speech.
Try taking a selfie in a bathing suit or making plans to finally get over your fear of spider monkeys. Plan a trip. Start a blog. Whatever makes your heart race just a little...do it.
Try something new. This is the spice of life and the reason you want to be healthy, so you can keep living it and growing every day.
Get Enough Sleep
There is too much to say about the benefits of sleep for me to go into all of it here, so trust me on this one. Sleep is really good for you.
As a 40+ person you should get seven hours of sleep per night.
If you need to set a drop-everything-and-go-to-bed alarm, you should do that.
It is also a good idea to have a bed time routine.
My routine is to walk dogs, brush my teeth, read a novel for a few minutes, tell Alexa to turn off the light, and I'm out.
Lift Some Heavy Weights.
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about starting weightlifting especially if it is new to you.
Just 90 seconds (yup seconds) of heavy weight lifting twice a week can be enough to build muscle.
You just have to lift enough weights so that with 10-15 reps you get to muscle failure.
Muscle failure means that you can't do one more rep.
What this tells your body is that you aren't strong enough, and that you will need to build muscles.
Regardless of your Keto-ness, putting on a little extra muscle after forty is a great idea.
You don't have a home gym? That's okay...start out with whatever you have around the house (cans of tomatoes, gallons of water, whatever). Start small and work your way up when you can.
Yard sales and thrift stores are a great place to find weights too. We never pay full price for that stuff.
See Your Doctor
Especially if you are over 40, talk to your doctor about big changes in your health.
I am not a your doctor, so I cannot give you any medical advice except that you should talk to your own doctor.
Maybe you have 100 pounds to lose. Maybe you have heart disease, or type 2 diabetes, or some other side effects of long term, bad diet.
These issues are big generalities, they apply to lots of people, but maybe they don't apply to you at all.
Your doctor knows you and can help you with the specifics.
But, we are here for support when you need it...
Cheers to you!