If you're on Keto - which you might, probably hate or find horribly difficult - do you still struggle with feelings of inflammation or puffiness or fluid retention?
I actually love Keto & don't find it hard at all (when I'm not traveling.) If I'm just in the regular flow of life I can easily adhere to Keto. I do my weekly meal prep, I give myself one "dirty keto treat day" a week & if I have short social events I have a bulletproof coffee before I go, then stick to the cheese, meats, leafy greens & olives. Eh voila!
I found a ton of benefits with Keto when I tried it for the first time at 4 months along with my 3rd pregnancy. I was living with a Certified Keto Practitioner at the time & was complaining about fluid retention in my feet, ankles & lower legs as well as my life long struggle with frozen finger tips, even in the summer. Sometimes I would wake up & the circulation in my fingers was so low I couldn't hold a pencil or open a water bottle cap for the first hour of the day. This is sometimes diagnosed as Raynaud's Syndrome.
My roommate insisted these would both clear up with Keto. Well I did a massive amount of research & then decided to try it.
This was no joke. Not only did I go from 4 months to 8 months pregnant on keto successfully, I had the lowest water retention in my feet & ankles (calf definition for the first time in 20 years!) I've ever had & I stopped having any issues with the circulation in my finger tips.
I noticed a number of other benefits doing keto while pregnant. It curbed a lot of the opportunities to eat garbage with the excuse of "cravings." I indulged in Enlightened Ice Cream a few times a week because some flavors have zero added sugar. I had to carefully navigate the 'keto bar' game because even some of the 'zero sugar' ones are packed with carbs & not enough fat which can kick you right out of keto if you're not vigilant.
But I also didn't 'have' a lot of cravings. One basic keto meal can keep you full for hours. I loved avocado, olives, eggs, bacon, salmon, Caesar dressing & green veggies anyway. I felt really clear headed a lot of the time & didn't feel the same all over fluid retention or fluffy layer of body fat packing on. I remember sleeping well most of the time & having energy most days for the entire day. (Oh - just to not leave you in suspense, the baby came out perfect. Keto doesn't harm babies Keep your stupid hate mail to yourself.)
Once I set out a typical daily meal plan & knew my caloric intake by using the My Fitness Pal app (which you cant entirely rely on for keto because you need to minus your fiber intake from your carbs) I had a rinse & repeat system for most days. I love meal prepping for my week while pregnant so I can keep an eye on what I'm putting in my body & feeding baby by proxy.
At 8 months pregnant I did a hiking trip in some remote areas & keto wasn't an option. I lived off eggs, back bacon, yogurt & a few other things for breakfast. During the day our food was packed for the hike so it was all dried fruit, dried meat, some veggies & lots of trail mix or nuts. Dinner was always out for local cuisine (meat & veggies.)
After coming back from the hiking trip I found it extremely difficult to adhere to a keto diet for the final month & a half of the pregnancy (and there after; but I knew I wanted to go back to this nutrition choice because of how great I felt on it during the pregnancy.)
My next round with it is my current status, starting at 4 months post partum after New Year's. Before this I had repeatedly failed to enter back into keto due to my romance with red wine & very grumpy behavior (plus lack of impulse control) while trying to fast into ketosis.
If you want to learn how to get into ketosis really fast & basically skip all of the 'keto flu' symptoms, check out the really quick video by Tim Ferriss. He gives a direct & detailed outline of how to fast into keto in about 48 hours & skip all of the miserable bullshit most people have to deal with when shifting over. (If you just want the quick tip: eat a fat focused dinner, fast for 24 hours, coffee with MCT oil or cocoanut oil is fine, walk for about 3 hours in the 24 hour window, then have a fat focused dinner to finish your fast.)
Now my current keto stack this time around, while not pregnant, has gotten a little complicated.
I'm on an Anavar cycle (this is an anabolic steroid for fitness gains.)
I've started 4 months post partum after a 2 L blood hemorrhage
I'm still hovering around 158 lbs. My pre-pregnancy weight was 145 lbs & I'm most comfortable at 135 lbs
my goals are packing on muscle while losing body fat %
I, yet again, have fluid retention & inflammation in my lower extremities, as well as inflammation in my thighs
At 3 weeks in I have no weight loss & a lot of muscle & strength gain
BUT I'm seeing more muscular definition & can see my upper abs again with my post-baby mummy tummy finally gone
AT this point, 4 weeks into a training schedule, I'm used to seeing vascularity starting in my shoulders - which I currently see nothing of at this point.
So I had to figure out why the 'puffiness' is occurring.
Did I find the answer to why it was happening? No. Sorry to say.
Did I find a solution due to a hypothesis? Yes - Kind of.
I was doing a bunch of research about antioxidants & free radicals. Oxidative stress is what creates free radicals which create many of the signs & symptoms we lump together as 'natural' aging. It is also the main culprit for inflammation. Our main defense against this is antioxidants (it's why they have such a huge healthy & nutrition hype.)
I had kind of a weird connection moment where I asked the long winded question: If I'm having inflammation, is it because I'm not getting enough antioxidants, because maybe I didn't realize that the keto diet doesn't have a lot of the foods in it which are high in antioxidants?
So I looked up the top antioxidant foods. Hilarious - the blueberry gets a lot of undue fame & credit for this. Look at this below from research.net
Even just walnuts knock blueberries out of the park!!
But that's not the point here. The point is that other than the spices, walnuts, pecans, artichokes, cabbage & a bit of dark chocolate - most of this is black listed on the keto diet. And I certainly don't cook enough things that I could put that many spices in. I've got cinnamon in my coffee, ginger & turmeric in my shakes, oregano in the soup I made this week & a bit of pepper on my morning eggs or my dinner. But not anywhere close to enough to be 'battling inflammation.'
The weird part about this list is that Green Tea isn't listed on the study above. But it's listed here:
Red wine & coffee for the win! But look at espresso! Holy cow!
But Green Tea doesn't look like it's doing that great here.
Hold on though - I'm not going to start drinking more coffee or red wine. But....I have highly concentrated green tea in the form of a EGCG extract that I use when doing the Tim Ferris PAGG stack for shredding body fat....
Well 2 things happened:
I took 1,000 mg of green tea extract (EGCG) & within 16 hours had urinated out a huge amount of fluid retention I was feeling & the 'cement' feeling I was having in my thighs disappeared.
I went to research the antioxidant properties of EGCG and can't find any recorded levels for it BUT I found this insane research paper on it that indicates its favorable uses to treat tumors, Covid-19 & shows its proven to prevent the body from storing visceral fat.
This research brought up the reminder that Green Tea is high in catechins, which are a type of antioxidant that have a diuretic property to them (cause you to urinate & release fluid.)
Ok - so great; but what else are the important pieces of this puzzle? I also needed to notice that I wasn't taking my electrolyte tablets in my water for the few days leading up to the fluid retention & feelings of inflammation. If your salts (electrolytes) are low - you're going to retain fluid. Your body has a very sensitive salt/water balance in your body. If you're not up to snuff on your electrolyte education - here is a quick article on it.
And guess what - keto requires you to be taking extra electrolytes.
Also - it's worth mentioning that a woman's menstrual cycle has a huge impact on fluid retention, weight & even strength in the gym. Our best weeks are typically the end of our bleed & the following 2 weeks. With the lead up to our PMS week (5-7 days prior to bleed) being the worst for most of us. During the time this retention & inflammation, I was around the beginning of my last good week of my cycle, and lost the inflammation coming into the difficult PMS week; therefore not being a contributing factor to the issues.
Despite all of this - my body fat percentage & weight has still not budged after 3 days & continued training after the inflammation & fluid retention issues.
I'm sad to say - I will be moving back into Slow Carb by Tim Ferriss. It's been my go to for years & we'll see if my results begin to shift. An interesting comment was made by my partner's trainer, "Keto might not be right for you "just right now."" That may be difficult for some people to wrap their head around - but that statement is extremely important to consider. Some people with extremely high cortisol levels from stress (like work or a hard time in their life) will not respond to keto well. The amount of hormonal shifts going on in my body this early after giving birth could be making my body a bad match for keto right now. But it's why women in pre & post menopause respond so well from shifting their system from a carb fuel system to a fat fuel system. The success of keto can greatly depend on what's going on inside your body & happening in your lifestyle already.
As always - my reminder to all women (and supportive partners) is that 'after pregnancy' is not the pathway to letting your body go to the dogs. Our bodies are incredible & resilient & massively adaptive. Taking your fitness, nutrition & overall health seriously as a key part of your life needs to be a life long consideration with active participation. Research, ask questions, read, expand your understanding & play!
Never have I broken into a moment where I've thought - well, I guess this 10 extra pounds is my new body, now that I've had 3 kids.
That's garbage. Challenge accepted.
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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. PrettyAggressiveRecovery@gmail.com