Skip To Content

    17 Things I Learned About Keto That My Doctor Didn't Tell Me

    From stinky pee to keto farts, here's everything your favorite fitness influencers didn’t tell you.

    Hey there! I'm a food writer for BuzzFeed and also a snack-a-holic. Recently, my food mania has sort of taken over my life.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    I love food and its many roles in my life — as a form of dietary nourishment, a social activity, a post-workout recovery tool, and, I'll be honest, as a delicious endorphin boost.

    Recently though, I came to the realization that I'd lost my grip on moderation, the restraint that made most of these habits okay, and that I had increasingly started turning to junky, processed food as a source of mental support, energy (eschewing proper sleep or stress management), and, honestly, happiness.

    I had heard a lot about keto and its presumed miraculous effects on your energy, blood sugar management, appetite control, and mental focus, and knew I had to try it out.

    Above all, I was hoping that by sticking to a diet so cut-and-dry and free of most processed foods in its make-up, I'd encourage my mind and body to rethink my approach to nutrition.

    The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that requires you to restrict your carb intake to about 20-50 grams per day. In a typical ketogenic diet, 70% of your calories come from fats, 20% from proteins, and 10% come from carbs. This extreme reduction in carbs forces your body to rely on ketone bodies (produced from the breakdown of all those fats you're consuming) instead of glucose from carbs. And with this shift in fuel, all the other benefits apparently follow suit.

    When I asked my primary care physician about keto, she told me that it'd be worth trying out for at least the short term, for many of the reasons cited above.

    And with that professional green light, I made up my mind to go full keto for 30 days.

    Before starting my keto journey, I sat down and researched all the meals and ingredients I'd be eating for the next month.

    While everyone's net carb limit varies, most sources advise you to stick to 20-50 grams of net carbs or less per day, when you start the diet. (By comparison, the FDA suggests that a standard, 2,000-calorie diet comprise of 300 grams of carbs per day). Once you've adjusted, you can try and add more carbs and see how your body responds.

    Keto's extreme restriction on carbs means that most of your diet consists of protein, dairy, nonstarchy vegetables, and of course, fats in the form of nuts, full-fat dairy, oils, and, for me, lots of bacon and mayonnaise.

    Knowing myself, I knew I wouldn't have the time or energy to plan out every single meal in advance, so I opted to download a cheat sheet listing net carbs (thank you, Reddit) for every major ingredient, and resolved to have no more than 6-7 grams of net carbs per meal, for three meals a day.

    Here are the 17 things I learned from my 30 days of trying out keto.

    1. As delicious as it sounded, keto was not a palatable diet for me (but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing...)

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Before starting keto, I had read about all the cheeses, avocado, bacon, and nut butters I'd be permitted to eat. But after a week or so of creating meals centered around meat and garnished with cheese, I found my taste buds craving, nay, desperately begging for, variety. Like a shopaholic who's suddenly been forced to browse in a single color, I felt restricted and as if I had entered some kind of prison of bland meals. Rich, fatty foods were great for a while, but eventually every forkful of chicken and charred broccoli, even cubes of rich cheddar cheese, started to taste like fistfuls of sand. 😫On the upside, I actually think that keto’s minimally appetizing foods ended up having positive effects on my self-control and my snacking habits.

    2. I was thirstier than I've ever been in my life. 🙃

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    On keto, I was thirstier and peed more than I ever have in my life. I drank so much water that I got sick of the texture of plain water and found myself buying cases of seltzer water (a habit I used to associate with the bougiest of people!).

    FYI, the thirst was a result of my body transitioning from using sugar (from carbs) as its main source of fuel, to fats. As my body started to go through its glycogen stores, it also released all the water weight associated with it, making me pee more, and drink more.

    3. The "Keto Flu" was real.

    Walt Disney

    Before starting keto, I was warned that I'd be feeling flu-like symptoms for the first week or so. And true to warning, by the third night, I started feeling all kinds of distressing side effects. I was hit hardest on day four, when, upon boarding my subway train, I felt a sudden lightheadedness overcome me. I stumbled onto a seat, but struggled to relax with the overhead light shooting painful beams into my eyes. When I tried to text a friend, I couldn't even focus on my train of thought.

    The hangover-like symptoms lessened as the week went on, but I didn't really feel back to normal until day ten. What also helped was figuring out that my low energy or unquenchable appetites were due to low levels of either salt or fat. When I upped my intake, by either drinking chicken broth, or cooking my veggies in a little more oil, I immediately felt more energized.

    4. My pee stank, which was apparently an indicator that I had reached ketosis.

    HBO

    I experienced the stinkiest pee I ever have in my life, the kind that makes you jolt up in your office bathroom stall and think to yourself, Is this me? I was embarrassed but also proud every time I got a whiff of my smelly pee, in the same way I'm weirdly proud every time my pee is clear.

    5. I lost a ton of water weight in the first week.

    Comedy Central

    By the end of the first week, my pants felt looser and my body a bit lighter. Half of that weight loss was probably due to water weight, but since I had completely eliminated the bottom half of my personal food pyramid (Cheez-its and French fries), I wouldn't be surprised if the other half was real loss. Weight loss was never my priority in starting keto — preventing weight gain was probably the bigger one — but I'll admit this felt pretty good. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    6. I stopped snacking as much.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Once I realized that I couldn't snack on peanut butter pretzels, fun size snickers, and granola because of their high-carb make up, two things happened: 1. I adjusted my meals to make sure I was eating filling, fibrous ingredients (aka, meat and lots of leafy green vegetables) 2. I realized that I didn't actually pass out, as I always felt I would, if I didn't have "just one bite" of something between meals. (I can't be the only one who feels this way, right?!)

    7. I realized I'm not as lactose intolerant as I thought I was. (I still can't do milk, but cheese is fair game.)

    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

    All through my 20s, and after one especially painful gelato experience at a local gelato place, I've operated under the understanding that my body and dairy can never coexist. But cheese is keto's silver lining, and I wasn't going to deny myself the one tasty loophole, windy consequences be damned. And I gotta say, my most life-changing takeaway from keto was the knowledge that I could eat half a block of cheese and feel completely normal afterward. P.S. Highly do not recommend this habit!!

    8. I stopped farting.

    Hulu

    There, I said it. First I thought that dairy would make my stomach bloat and give me painful stomach cramps. And it didn't. Then I thought it would at least give me some toots. But NAY! For the entire month of keto, I don't think I clenched my butt during a too-long office meeting once.

    As a side note, there is also something called a keto fart, which should never be trusted because it's coupled with looser stool and diarrhea, and never really just a fart. You've been warned.

    9. I had trouble falling asleep for the first week.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    My first week on keto was awful for my sleep, which is saying a lot since I already struggle with insomnia on a normal diet. Without the food coma-inducing powers of heavy carbs, I found it hard to coax my body into sleep, and had an even harder time STAYING asleep. The disrupted sleep only last the first week and a half, thankfully, but seriously exacerbated the low energy I was already feeling from my carb fast.

    10. Eggs became my best friend.

    Dami Lee / Via Twitter: @dami_lee

    In my month of keto I ate more eggs than I ever had before. I boiled 'em, baked 'em, soft-cooked them, and chopped them. Ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even as a late-night snack. They proved to be the most affordable protein, were easy to modify, and could be cooked in a jiff. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was eating eggs for every meal. Eggs never let me down. How many things in 2018 can you say that about? #eggsforprez2020

    11. My skin cleared up.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    I'll admit I have pretty clear skin to start with, but on keto, my skin cleared up even more. My redness disappeared, my stubborn between-the-eyes acne responded to my cleanser, and my cheeks felt as smooth as they do after a nice, long sauna sesh. And well, it doesn't take a scientist to figure out why. Cutting carbs out of my diet meant abstaining from most processed foods and sugar, and consuming only natural ingredients full of antioxidants and all those other cool, healthy nutrients that large slices of pizza unfortunately don't offer you.

    12. Net carbs are very different from total carbs.

    diabetickitchen.com

    This is an important lesson. Net carbs = total carbs - fiber. So, for example, an avocado has 12 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fiber. Meaning it has 3 net grams of carbs. So, what I'm trying to say is, you can actually have up to like, six avocados a day and still stay in ketosis.

    13. The most annoying part of keto was prepping my breakfast every morning.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, especially since I'm a morning gym go-er and by the time I'm ready for my first meal, my appetite is pretty revved up. During my keto month, I never did get good at meal prepping my breakfasts in addition to my lunches AND dinners, though, meaning I resorted to eating my office's free supply of string cheese or a handful of nuts most mornings. When I was out and about, the selection was even worse and I mostly turned to the dreaded meat stick.

    14. I developed a weird appetite for chicken broth — a craving that continues to this day.

    amazon.com

    You know how at the end of every meal, you crave something sweet to seal your stomach shut? Since I couldn't have most conventional desserts or sugar, I started reaching for chicken broth as my own comforting, meal-polishing substitute. It wasn't the sugary palette-balancing bite I used to crave, but it was soothing and calmed any lingering stomach rumbles I may have had.

    15. Everyone finds a loophole in keto — mine was roasted nuts.

    Sumikophoto / Getty Images

    When I was in high school, I used to have a pin that said "I love nuts." This was my sad attempt at creating personality while being painfully introverted, but also an accurate statement of snack preference.

    I love nuts, and unfortunately for me, the especially fatty ones are allowed on keto. I had pecan halves with my breakfast, with my salads, and sometimes as my insomniac's 3 a.m. snack. I was addicted to their crunchy texture and fattiness, and they let me maintain many of the snacking habits I tried to break with keto.

    Everyone eventually identifies their own keto-ruining loophole; that is, an easy-to-find ingredient that lets them maintain unhealthy habits and encourages recreational eating. For some, it's cheese. For others, it's beef jerky. For me, it was friggin' brazil nuts and marcona almonds. You may think nuts are healthy, but probably not in the amount I was eating them. If I could do keto all over again, I'd completely eliminate nuts and I honestly feel like I'd have a pretty different experience.

    16. My gym time felt slightly more sluggish than usual.

    Comedy Central

    For the first two weeks of keto, every single physical activity I committed myself to felt like going on an early morning bike ride after a very late night of drinking. I had zero motivation, my muscles never seemed to warm up, and every limb felt extra heavy and less responsive. Things got better, but I wouldn't have stuck with any kind of gym regime had I not have had a routine already in place. For those wanting to try keto AND reintroduce their bodies to a workout routine, I'd suggest phasing one or the other in first.

    17. Keto was hard on my social life, but not impossible.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    One of the worst parts about breaking up with your partner is having to tell all your friends about the break-up and reliving the misery of the split over and over again. That's sort of what it felt like to have to explain my pickiness over restaurants choices, my unwillingness to meet at beer bars, and my continued declines of dinner invites, literally almost every day for two weeks. For the first two weeks, the questions annoyed me and even made me a little angry. They made me question myself, why I had chosen to go down this path in the first place, and made me want to go back to my old ways. But as the keto flu wore off and I began to feel control over my eating decisions as I had never had before, I started to embrace the questions as opportunities to spread the word of keto. A tale as old as time, I know.

    After a month of keto, here's my TL;DR on my experience:

    ~The bad~

    The hardest part of keto was how often I had to say no to meals out, homemade treats, and tall glasses of ice cold beer, and the combined effects those small adjustments had on my social life. While I think it's 100% possible to sustain a keto diet for a longer time frame, I was satisfied with the CPR effect my 30 days had on my eating habits, and eager to carry my learnings back into my regularly scheduled social programming. While my grocery store expenditures remained about the same (I often bought whatever meat was on sale), I spent a significant amount of more time cooking, due to all the meat and raw vegetables I was obliged to chop and cook.

    ~The good~

    Keto ended up being both a mental and physical challenge. But once I adjusted, I loved the renewed sense of control it gave me over my eating habits. I stopped worrying about every little bite, knowing fully well that on a keto diet, I'd be able to trust my body's hunger signals and not confound them as "cravings" signals. I got better at controlling my portions, re-learned how to say no to treats and junky foods, and even scaled back my drinking (since being hungover on a keto diet is a complete nightmare).

    I highly recommend keto for anyone who has the budget and the mental headspace* to take on the challenge.

    FOX

    If you're anything like me, it might encourage some healthier eating habits. At the very least, you'll come out of it with a renewed appreciation for all your carb-ful foods.

    *And obviously, check with your doctor before committing to a nutritional overhaul like this.