Keto 101: Everything You Need to Know

I have a contributed post today talking about the keto diet. I rarely change the way I eat (says the girl who’s currently on a two week vegan challenge…) but I love reading about different diets. I find it fascinating when people take such drastic approaches, such as cutting out groups of food or having a different perspective on the way they eat. And what works for one might not work for another. But it’s interesting anyway! So here we go…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ll know about keto diets or at least have heard of them. They’ve taken the world by storm with their ability to burn fat without being hungry or feeling deprived like typical low fat diets, eating while losing weight sounds too good to be true but it’s easy to wrap your head around once you know the science. Here’s everything you need to know!

What are keto diets and ketosis?

Keto plans work by reducing your carbohydrate intake. With limited carbohydrates, your body switches to burning its own fat supplies for fuel- meaning your weight loss efforts are increased. This process puts your body in a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’, you can check if you’re in ketosis using simple urine analysis strips available at any chemist.

How does it work?

Imagine your body like a fridge freezer. Your carbohydrates are like the fridge section, easily accessible and when they’re available they will be your body’s first choice for fuel. Your fat supplies are like the freezer- the backup supply. Once the ‘fridge’ is empty, the body will utilise what’s in the ‘freezer’. It breaks down this stored fat and uses it for energy, including energy need at rest such as digestion, brain activity and more. This makes it much easier to lose weight compared to a traditional low fat low calorie diet.

Is it safe?

Ketosis is a perfectly safe and natural process for your body, as humans it’s exactly how we were designed. We store fat to be used as fuel so we have energy even when food supplies are scarce. Ketosis can sometimes be confused with ‘ketoacidosis’ which is a serious complication which people with diabetes can get. But despite sounding similar, they’re completely different things. The process of your body switching from carbohydrates to its own fat supplies for fuel can be a little gruelling, many people feel a little dizzy, tired and headachy for a couple of days. However, once the body is fat adapted and reaches ketosis these side effects disappear and you feel much like your normal self again.

How easy are keto plans to follow?

Keto plans tend to be very easy to follow. While you’re cutting out much of an entire food group (carbs) you have plenty of fat, dairy and protein options which are filling, satisfying and taste great. While it’s not an invitation to eat to excess, you don’t have to count calories and can eat until your satiated meaning there’s less temptation to cheat.

One of the symptoms of ketosis is reduced hunger, this is because without carbohydrates there are no spikes in your blood sugar. It’s these spikes that cause cravings and hunger pangs, so without them you’ll notice a definite improvement in your appetite if you’re prone to overeating. Because there are so many available things you can eat and so many great recipe ideas online, you shouldn’t get bored.

On top of this, it’s the kind of diet where you can still go out and eat and enjoy food with friends. Invited to a barbecue? Tuck into the meat and enjoy with some salad and just avoid the bread (be sure to avoid sugary marinades). If you go to a restaurant, ask for your side of potatoes to be replaced with some low carb veggies like broccoli- just be wary of added sugars or carbs in gravy or sauces. Restaurants are very accommodating and can remove these, or at least let you know what’s in them if you ask.

Can vegans follow a keto plan?

Following a keto plan as a vegan is certainly possible. There are more challenges here, since many keto followers do tend to use meat, fish eggs and dairy as their primary food sources. However you do still have options- coconut products, oils, nuts and seeds, non starchy vegetables, vegan protein sources like tofu and tempeh and vegan ‘full fat dairy’ such as cashew butter and vegan cream cheese are all on the menu. The best thing you can do is log your macros on a site like MyFitnessPal, make sure you’re keeping your carbs low enough while hitting all of your nutritional needs.

Are there any side effects

There are a few side effects of ketosis. One thing that just about everyone will experience is changed in their breath, that’s because when the body burns fat it created ketones and some of the byproducts aren’t used by the body. They’re excreted through urine and the breath, a lot of people report a ‘fruity’ smell or an acetone like smell like nail polish remover. You can relieve this symptom by chewing parsley or chewing sugar free gum. Feeling cold is another common side effect. For the most part, you won’t feel all that different when you’re in ketosis and for the majority of people, the minor side effects are worth it for the ability to lose weight more effectively.

Can I still exercise?

Yes, you can still exercise when you’re in ketosis and you should- exercise is useful for everyone. However there’s one main thing to bear in mind, and that’s the body can take a little longer to fuel your body with energy from fat. There’s a reason why athletes ‘carb load’ before a workout, it provides instant and accessible fuel for energy. When you’re in ketosis, you don’t have that instantly accessible fuel. For this reason, you might feel a little light headed if you suddenly start exercising intensely. Warm up first, and stick with moderate paced activities rather than intense exercise. Swimming, cycling, even jogging is still fine, but sprinting, hiit workouts and other very intense exercise might not be the best choice in keto.

Resistance training is a great choice when you’re following a keto plan, try out the weights machines in the gym or use Resistance bands by OriGym at home to tone up your muscles. With so much protein in your diet you’ll recover quickly, and added muscle will boost your metabolism and burn even more fat.

Have you ever followed a keto plan?

How I try to be injury-free

2017 has been my best year running. No I haven’t PB’ed in every distance (in fact, I’ve only achieved one PB this year, at the Great South Run). But I’ve had a great year of CONSISTENTLY running and side-stepping injuries.

This year I’ve only had two injuries, both lasting a short period of time (for me this is VERY good). One of those was ankle related and probably down to throwing myself back into running too soon after a marathon and going on a ridiculous seven mile off-road trail run. The second was upping my mileage from 25 miles a week to over 50 miles a week on an Austria run camp – lots of downhill running causing my knee to say ENOUGH. So in terms of those pesky over-use injuries I used to get ALL the time, I’ve done very well.

I thought I’d do a post on some of the things I’m doing that I believe might have helped me. I will obviously preface with this with: 1) I’m not a physiotherapist, coach or anyone of any notable qualifications or intelligence, 2) this might all be fluke. That said, let’s get to it.

Gaining weight

I used to be about five-six pounds lighter. Yes, yes lighter usually means faster when it comes to running but as I don’t particularly care about speed in the great scheme of things I don’t mind (that said, I’ve managed to almost reach my 5k PB from my lighter days).

I’ve put in some solid effort at the gym and gained muscle and, yes, fat. Ladies, FAT IS NEEDED. We need fat to be healthy. Boobs, bums, hips, thighs… fat is a good thing to have. Obviously there is a limit, but being ridiculously skinny is not that healthy. Embrace those love handles, jiggle those thighs and be proud of your lumps, bumps and curves. I realise I’m still a relatively slim jim, but I am definitely not as slim as I used to be and I’m very happy. I love my body and I love food. I have an insane appetite and the thought of giving up anything to be slimmer genuinely brings sadness to my heart. Happily, I truly believe that carrying a bit more jiggle has given my body more strength and the ability to endure higher mileage.

Strength training

I bang on about this all the time I know. It took me a while to get this. I’d get injured, I’d end up at the physio, he’d assess and treat me and send me away with a list of exercises I needed to do. I’d do them for a period of time and eventually be back running, forget the exercises… and then get injured again. This was quite the cycle for me. Until I finally realised I needed to keep doing the exercises. Sadly I’m not as hardy as other people and I require that added extra work in order to keep me running healthy and strong.IMG_0965So I go to the gym four times a week. Two of those sessions are focused on my legs and glutes. For legs I do squats (lots of variations from heavy low reps, to high reps with resistance bands, etc.), lunges, single leg work, leg presses, deadlifts… And for glutes I do hip thrusts, kickbacks, bridges, step ups, etc. And every day at the gym I always do at least five minutes of focused glute resistance band work, such as monster walks.

I’ve also found when I start to feel something “not right” (like my hip the other week) I focus on that area and the areas around it. I make sure I don’t cause pain or discomfort, but I aim to strengthen that area. I’ve found it also helps to get the blood flowing in that area to help keep it healthy.

Bit of stretching

I don’t really stretch after running and I don’t tend to do much warming up (unless it’s super cold or I’m waiting for someone – then I’ll do some token squats and leg swings). What I do do is stretching first thing in the morning. This is usually at the gym. I go through a sort of mini-yoga routine opening up my back and my hips. I try and make sure the movements are dynamic and not just static holds. I don’t know if this has helped me much with running but in general I feel better for it.

And nutritional things…

Now take these with a punch of salt. I thought I’d mention them because they’re something I personally like to do and in my head I think they make a difference but really I have no idea and no direct proof.

  • Turmeric: I eat a lot of turmeric. It’s gotten to the point now that most of my dinners have a slight orange tinge to them because of the turmeric. I really like the spice (I wouldn’t eat it if I didn’t, believe me!) and I’ve heard some good things about it helping reduce inflammation. So I chuck it on my meals. In my most paranoid moments (the day before a long run or a marathon for example) I might even go as far as having a turmeric latte. Yep.
  • Omega 3 supplements: I take these every single day without fail. I do try and eat fish regularly through the week but I like to fully ensure I’m getting my omega 3 anyway.
  • More protein: And in general I eat a solid amount of protein. I much prefer protein to carbs (#allthemeat) so I don’t find this too difficult. With every meal I’ll have a solid source of protein. Easy protein sources: tinned tuna (I eat this every day for lunch in a salad), protein powder (I add this to my porridge), Greek yogurt (or Skyr yogurts are really good), chicken, turkey and meat/fish in general, eggs, cottage cheese, beans, chia seeds…

Like I said, I have no idea if the above has significantly contributed to me staying uninjured but it’s a lifestyle I’m going to continue. Hopefully this has been somewhat useful to you! Now excuse me while I sip my orange-tinged coffee… 😉

How do you stay injury-free?

Do you take any supplements?

Do you go to the gym?

Improving physical endurance with nutrition

I have another guest post from the Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing website regarding endurance and nutrition (always a tricky thing to nail!). Enjoy!


If your New Year resolution was to get fitter in 2017, or if you were already interested in exercise and would like some healthy tips then this article is for you. In this article we explore using nutrition to help boost your endurance to get you that faster time and finish in a better condition whatever your endurance sport.


Months in advance of a sporting event practice eating and drinking whilst exercising to find out which items work for you. Some people have robust digestion and can eat shortly before exercise, and some people can only exercise on an empty stomach. If you are taking part in an event find out which foods/drinks are available en route so you can start using these during your training to get your body used to them.

As nutritional therapists we often advise people to generally follow low Glycaemic Index/Glycaemic Load (GI/GL) foods to maintain a healthy weight, but during intense exercise these are not the best rules to follow. Exercise requires meal s to have a higher carbohydrate content so there should be some fat or protein to lower the GI/GL but don’t overdo it – the diet of someone exerciseing should be mostly carbohydrates. Add unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts), lean protein, low fat dairy to supplement the carbohydrates ensuring you combine 1 low GI/GL food with each meal (e.g. dried fruit). Popular snacks/light meals include: peanut butter and banana sandwiches, apple with chocolate milk or fruit and yogurt smoothie.

To make sure you are getting enough variety of carbohydrates into your diet here are some examples of what you could use:

  • Breakfast – orange juice, 1.5 cup rolled oats, banana, and wholemeal toast with peanut butter
  • Morning snack – mini box of raisins and ½ bagel
  • Lunch – 2 slices wholemeal bread, ½ tin tuna, 1 tbsp mayo, lettuce and tomato, 6oz yogurt, 1oz pretzels, 1.5 cups grape juice
  • Mid afternoon snack – apple plus 12 almonds
  • Dinner – 2 cups cooked wholewheat pasts, 1 cup tomato sauce, 2oz cooked beef/chicken/seafood, lettuce, 1 cup sorbet for desert
  • After dinner snack – cup of milk plus 6 figs

In the week leading up to the event start to consume even more carbohydrate – approximately 8-10g per kg body weight per day, this can be in the form of pasta, rice, potatoes. Beware not to load up with too much fat e.g. cheesy pasta which leads to poorly fuelled muscles and bigger fat cells. Instead pick pasta with tomato, or honey on toast.

On the morning of the event eat familiar foods which you know you can tolerate. Maybe liquid meal replacements if solid food is not good (this should be tried in advance during your training). Include ingredients which are low fat and fibre to prevent slower emptying of stomach. Ultra Marathon Cycling Association suggest eating 50g of carbohydrates each hour before the event e.g. banana plus a large bagel with jam is 100g, and drinking 500ml two hours before the start of the event. If you can eat close to the event it is suggested 0.5g of carbohydrates per lb body weight the hour before exercise, so for someone who is 10.5 stone the equivalent could be a bowl of cereal plus a banana. If you have found in training you are better without food just before exercise try eating 3 hours before something like a bagel with peanut butter, piece of fruit and a yogurt.

During the event the golden rule when it comes to refuelling is eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty.


This is crucial to get the most out of exercise and also recovery. It’s also a personal amount which changes each time you exercise. Here is one way to measure how much you should be drinking: Weigh yourself in your exercise clothes just before you exercise, and again when completed the exercise. Every 1lb lost is equivalent to 2 cups (16oz) of fluid. Add the amount of fluid drank during exercise, then divide the total amount by hours exercised. An example:

if you lose 3lb (6 cups fluid) and drink 2 cups during the 2 hours exercise the sweat rate is 8 cups (6+2) for 2 hours, so need to refuel with 1 cup every 15 minutes during exercise as an approximate for your individual sweat rate.

Excessive sweating without replacing electrolytes is dangerous. As an approximation when weight loss is 0-2% of body weight following an event thirst is common and estimated performance loss is 1.8% but this increases to a performance loss of 7% when weight loss is 2-3%. By the time weight loss reaches 3-6% cramps are common and at greater than 6% body weight loss severe cramps, heat exhaustion are a very real threat. It is crucial to make sure during training you measure your sweat rate to ensure you compensate for the amount of fluid you are losing and thereby how much you should be refuelling during exercise.

Consider also the minerals you are losing in sweat. Sweat has 1,000mg sodium/quart, and sports drinks have 440mg sodium/quart so there are occasions when you will need more salt than in sports drinks.The low sodium can also impede you combined with too much water making you feel bloated so don’t consume large amounts too quickly until sodium levels are corrected.

Sodium and potassium are the main electrolytes within cells, but potassium is not lost as  much as sodium in sweat. To compensate for sodium loss add a pinch of table salt per hour of exercise, or include some drinks with a higher salt content e.g. V-8 tomato juice.

Avoiding the mistakes

According to Ultra Marathon Cycling Association there are 10 mistakes to avoid:

  • Over hydrating leading to stomach cramps and sodium being too diluted
  • Too much simple sugar which will be converted by the body if not used into triglycerides
  • Insufficient post event refuelling. Try to consume 50-75g of carbohydrates plus 15-20g protein within 30-60mins after event
  • Make sure you’re eating the right balance, as an approximate the general diet should be 12-20% protein, 50-60% carbohydrates, 20% fat
  • Forgetting to eat enough
  • Insufficient electrolytes causing weakness, nausea and cramping
  • Too much protein during exercise which puts extra burden on the kidneys
  • Too much solid food
  • Time recovering is as important as time spent training

We all know the importance of hydration and carbohydrates when exercising, and hopefully this article has provided some practical tips to make your training more productive and help you exceed your exercise goals.

What do you eat the week leading up to a big event?

Is your stomach sensitive of robust when it comes to digestion?

How much salt do you usually eat?

The Nitty Gritties–The Taper

For a lot of people who are currently training for a marathon, now is the time that the taper is happening. You’ve done the big scary miles and you’ve just got to survive until the big day.

Tapering is basically when you cut back your total weekly mileage by 20-25% approximately three weeks out from race day (e.g. if you are running 40 miles, you’ll drop to 30-32 miles). Then two weeks out from race day you drop down another 20-25% (24ish miles). Then when you hit the week of the race you’re just ticking over on a lot lower mileage to keep your body fresh for the big day.

You usually start tapering just after you’ve done your last big run, and usually the longest run you’ll do in the entire training. For a lot of people this might be anywhere between 18-24 miles. Then the following weeks your long run will drop down, probably not going over 16 miles.

For me, my last long run was 18.6 miles (I didn’t go over this as I didn’t fancy running 20 miles or above as I know how injury prone I am). Then the week after my next long run was 16 miles (last weekend), then 13 miles and then race day. I’ve tried this previously and it’s worked well. Some people like to drop down to 10 or even eight miles the week before and this is fine, whatever works for you! The intention is that you’re just maintaining everything you’ve worked hard for and letting your body freshen up ready for the race.

During the taper, it is most important to remember this: physiological adaptations to training take a minimum of six weeks. Therefore, training hard during the final two to three weeks before your marathon is not going to improve your performance.”  Runner’s World [Source]

Tapering sounds positively delightful when you’re in the thick of your heavy mileage and tiredness. But when you actually get there it can be a bit of a shock. You suddenly seem to feel rubbish. Niggles start cropping up – does my knee twinge? Why does my hamstring feel tight? And you feel so tired. Normal runs during the week can feel hard-work. I find myself struggling to run six miles and wondering how the hell I’m going to go 20 miles further.

This is NORMAL. Your body has just been put through a rather intense amount of running and training for the past few months. It’s suddenly taking a breath and adjusting to everything it’s gone through. This does not mean you’ve suddenly lost everything. This taper madness happens to most of us!

Don’t be tempted to squeeze in some more miles because your weekly mileage suddenly looks a lot less. And don’t try and whack up the intensity to compensate for the less miles. Keep things exactly the same intensity-wise but just reduce the number of miles you’re running. Keep doing the intervals, hill training and speed sessions; just shorten them.

And whatever you do, don’t try and make up for any lost training runs you might have missed previously. There’s not much you can do about it now. It is FAR better to turn up to a marathon undertrained than over-trained, or worse, injured. Give your body the benefit of the doubt – if you’ve managed to do most of your training without a huge number of weeks of no-running you should be fine.

On race day you’ll be pumped up, adrenaline-fuelled and ready to go. You don’t want to shuffle up to the start-line tired and over-worked. Ideally you’ll feel fresh and full of pent-up energy due to your lower mileage. The marathon is the victory lap – you’ve done the hard work.

Food-wise, just keep everything the same. If you want to carb load and have some experience with it before previous races, then go for it. But if you’ve never done it before don’t start loading up on pasta for every single meal leading up to the race. You don’t want to feel bloated or cause digestion issues. You honestly don’t need to pack your body silly with carbs. Normal balanced meals are perfectly fine. Your body usually has enough glycogen in the muscles to get you through, so just make sure you eat sensibly leading up the race. Do nothing different to what you’ve done before. The night before the race have a good-sized meal that you’ve tried and tested.

And remember, DO NOT panic. You’ve done the hard part. The mind is a very powerful thing. Even if your training hasn’t been exactly what you hoped, mental determination can do absolute wonders. My first two marathon trainings were plagued with injury, but I still got through with the help of sheer determination and belief that I could do it. There will always be other people who have had worse training than you and will still finish. You CAN do this.

Have you ever suffered from taper madness?

When do you do your longest marathon training run?

Do you carb load for races? I tend to stick to normal meals all week and then have a shop-bought pizza the night before if I can

My favourite podcasts right now

I listen to a lot of podcasts (and audiobooks). I have a fairly boring commute to work (Southampton to Basingstoke) which takes around an hour each way. To pass the time I sometimes like to listen to a podcast as I find the journey passes so much quicker that way. I also listen to podcasts when I walk Alfie and when I do long runs. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice to listen to music or to simply just zone out to the sound of the outdoors but it’s also a great way to broader my knowledge on information or just listen to something interesting or funny.

Here are my favourites:

BBC Five Live Film Review

Simon Mayor and Mark Kermode talk movie reviews. This has been a longstanding favourite of mine. I love watching films but I don’t get to the cinema as often as I like, but I still enjoy listening to reviews of the latest films that are either out or up and coming. The relationship between Mayor and Kermode is great – they have good banter and squabbling between them and it’s often very funny. There are a lot of in jokes as it’s been going on for years but it’s easy to get hooked. I will usually always trust Kermode’s review of a film as well.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone who has a passing interest in watching movies, whether you go to the cinema or not.

The Empire Film Podcast

Another film review show, but this time with an ensemble cast of usually three people who change from time-to-time. It’s from the Empire magazine. There’s swearing, it’s silly and it’s very light-hearted (like the magazine). They discuss movie news and answer fun, random listener questions (“best stairway scene in a movie?”). My only slight annoyance is they do have a heavy Marvel love which I struggle with as I’m not that into comic book movies. They always have great sweary interviews with actors, directors, etc.

Who’s it aimed at? Probably more aimed at movie lovers than the Five Live podcast above as it can get geeky with movie news and interviews.

Marathon Talk

Of course Marathon Talk is on here (I’m going to the Marathon Talk weekend in a few weeks time wheee!). Good running training tips, running news from around the world, funny anecdotes from Tony Audenshaw (from Emmerdale no less), interviews and listener stories. I really like Martin and Tom and they always have a good balance of opinion and information and they’re extremely down to earth. My one peeve is why they still insist on listing all the upcoming marathons at the end of the podcast…does anyone really listen to this?? It goes on for ages and is so dull and repetitive. I always end the podcast before it starts.

Who’s it aimed at? People who love running, but not necessarily just marathons.

Ben Coomber Radio

Quite a light-hearted podcast based on nutrition, health and performance. It focuses a lot on lifting weights in the gym but it’s not exclusive to that subject. Ben is very amiable and funny and takes a no-nonsense approach. He’s also very knowledgeable with a lot of science and research behind what he preaches. He often co-hosts with Rachel Guy, who’s heavily into lifting weights, so provides a decent insight into that sort of thing and they do Q&A style shows answering listener questions. There’s also a lot of interviews with people from the nutrition and performance industry.

Who’s it aimed at? If you’re interested in solid nutrition advice, going to the gym and just generally being healthy it’s a good one. However it does focus a lot on weight lifting, macros and building muscle/losing fat.

Freakanomics Radio

I used to listen to this one a lot more than I do now. It’s hard to describe but basically Stephen Dubner, an economist (he wrote the Freakonomics book as well) explores social, political and random issues with loads of different guests, from social scientists to entrepreneurs to delve into different problems, questions and oddities with an economist and social science perspective. It’s light-hearted and gentle in terms of heavy science but always very interesting. It is quite US-focused though.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone who has a curious nature and likes to puzzle things out. Not necessarily deep thinking but a fun way to question the world.


A series of interviews of a wide range of runners, professional athletes, coaches and people with a good knowledge of running or in the industry. It’s led by Tina Muir who I think is awesome. She’s a Brit living in America and is an awesome runner (check out her blog – such a talented runner and a lovely person. She incidentally did her favourite podcasts recently too). This podcast is a great way to get some insight into specific running areas and hear more about certain topics from different people within the industry.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone interested in running, whether at a beginner’s level or an elite level.


You can’t talk about podcasts without mentioned Serial. I binge listened to all the first series a couple of years ago (wow so long ago now!) and haven’t started the second series yet… Anyone tried it? I’ve heard it’s good but it’s not the same ‘story’ as last series which is a shame as I’d love to know what’s going on there. It’s just very well written and you’re kind of drip-fed the story which keeps you going back for more without it seeming like it’s dragging.

Who’s it aimed at? Really anyone. I know so many people of different ages and backgrounds who loved it.

What podcasts do you love to listen to?

When do you listen to podcasts?