Keto is a term which many will be familiar with, and if you’re already in the Keto club then I don’t need to explain the Keto diet to you of course ;-), but I’ll provide an explanation, for the uninitiated – as well as describing the methods I’ve been experimenting with to find the best low carb recipes for making our beloved milk coffee drinks without the carbs usually associated with them.
By the way, I’m not referring to bulletproof coffee, this is different. I’m talking here about making latte, cappuccino, flat white, cortado etc., but lower carb.
The Keto diet relates to a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet which many people all over the world have switched to in order to shed excess body fat.
Like many, I could eat whatever I wanted as a kid, I never put on weight – partly, I think, just down to my metabolism, but also probably because I was so active as a kid, ADHD without a doubt, but I’ve grown out of that, to a certain degree ;-). What I also grew out of though, as many of us do over the years, is the ability to eat whatever without putting on weight.
Somehow I ended up around 15 stone in my early 30s. I didn’t look it, at least I don’t think I did, but according to my body fat percentage of 32%, I was clinically obese. I found this out at a free health testing stand at a family fun day we’d taken the kids to, and I was shocked, to say the least. I knew I was a bit overweight, I could no longer fit in my 34″ waist jeans, and I was wearing large Tshirts rather than medium, but to be told I was obese was a bit of a shock.
I thought my diet was fairly healthy, I didn’t consume gallons of fizzy drinks, I didn’t eat “crap” or drink excessive amounts of beer or wine, I wasn’t really doing anything particularly excessive. I realised that I wasn’t doing much in the way of exercise, but I wasn’t completely sedentary either. I occasionally went to the gym but not religiously, and I wasn’t into running at the time, I did the occasional bike ride, but again it wasn’t particularly regular.
So the first thing I did was to start researching to figure out what I was doing which had resulted in me piling on the weight, and what I could do to turn things around.
I found myself reading a lot of content from a guy called Tom Venuto, who has books and courses on how to change the way we eat in order to burn away the fat, and this is when I began to learn more about what was going on, I started to change the way I was eating, and the way I was exercising too, and I began to lose fat. I still read Tom’s stuff now, he’s a genius when it comes to metabolism and nutrition, he’s regarded among one of the best experts on the planet when it comes to health and fat loss.
One of the things I learned from reading Tom’s stuff is that I’d buggered up my metabolism to a certain degree, by not eating enough & not eating often enough, and also I was eating the wrong kind of stuff. I had too many carbs in my diet, and not enough proteins and good fats. Also, I started working out more regularly, and focussing not just on cardio, but on building muscle – as building lean muscle is a great help when it comes to burning fat.
I ended up losing around 2.5 stone, over a period of about 6 months, and I wasn’t constantly hungry while doing this either. I was amazed by what I was able to do, and by how simple it was.
After a few years, I suddenly found myself with a lot of the weight back on again! I’d slowly slipped back into old habits, I was eating a high carb diet again! Slightly frustrated with myself, but this time I knew what to do, and I did it again – dropped the fat off again, most of it over a period of about 3 months, but continued losing weight for about 9 months in total, and ended up the lightest I’d been since I was about 18!
Then, a few years later – just a few weeks ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and realised I’d done it again, but this time I’d noticed at the time that I probably need to drop about a stone rather than two or three. Again, I’d fallen into the trap of eating a higher carb diet, and I’d slacked off on the exercise too. But, I think knowing what to do, after having done it before, is half the battle, it’s just a case of doing what I know.
This time though I’m experimenting with full Keto, also known as VLC (very low carb). What I’ve done in the past has been low carb, but probably not low carb enough to be classed as Keto.
By the way if you’re bored of the keto diet stuff and you just want to skip to where I talk about keto coffee, I won’t be offended, just scroll down ;-).
Whether the full-on Keto diet is the holy grail or partially hype, really depends on who you listen to. Tom Venuto’s stance on the full ketogenic diet, and the opinion of some others in the world of health, fitness and nutrition, has a negative tinge, but most of this is disagreeing on WHY it works, rather than HOW, and personally I don’t really care what they why is, as long as it works.
There are plenty of very clever nutritionists and doctors etc., who are hugely positive about Keto and who live this way themselves, such as Doctor Peter Attia – it’s important to say though that most of the experts who do state that they have this lifestyle/diet themselves do state that it’s not necessarily for everyone, as everyone is different.
It’s early days for me, I’m a just over a month in, and so far so good, but one thing I will say, is make sure you do your research on Keto before you do it, particularly on what you can expect during the initial phase while your body is getting used to burning fats instead of sugars.
They call it the keto flu, and depending on the individual it can range from slight nausea to stomach pains and all kinds of other not so nice symptoms. I started off with a bit of generally feeling a bit under the weather, you know when you feel like you’re fighting something off, just a bit run down. About 2 weeks in though, I became ridiculously bloated, to the point that it became almost impossible to run. I felt like Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters! I did some research and it appears that this is probably the result of very low sodium levels, which is one of the things that can happen in the transition phase, so I upped the sodium I was consuming (in food, rather than drinking some kind of expensive electrolytes replacement drink), and it calmed down over the period of 2-3 days.
4-5 weeks in now and I’m really happy with the way things are going, the ketu flu is gone now, my breath has stopped smelling weird, I’m not suffering from bloating etc., and I can feel and see that I’m losing fat. I can’t tell you what I’ve lost in weight, as I’m not measuring that. I think measuring weight is a flawed way of keeping track of how well you’re doing, I think it’s way better in general to look at yourself in the mirror and also gauge it by how you’re feeling. Weight can be all over the place depending on water loss and water retention etc., so I just don’t think it’s the best way of keeping track of how well you’re doing with fat loss.
What Exactly is the Keto (Ketogenic) diet?
There are two fuels the body can burn for energy, glucose and ketones. Glucose comes from the carbs we consume, and the body can also transform proteins into glucose (bloody clever things these bodies aren’t they?). Ketones are made by breaking down fats.
Glycosis simply means the process of burning glucose for energy. Ketosis means the process of burning ketones for energy.
Ketones, or “ketone bodies”, consists of acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyric acid & acetone (which is largely responsible for “keto breath” which is a temporary symptom of the ketosis). If you think I’m really clever, by the way, stop thinking that 😉 – I had no idea what the ketone bodies were called, I had to Google it.
Most of us have diets that result in us mainly being in glycolysis, that is, we tend to live off sugars. When we fast, or introduce a calorie deficit so that we’re not giving our bodies enough fuel, we will then switch to burning fats instead, and this is how we burn fat that we have stored as energy reserves.
All of go into ketosis, i.e. our bodies break down our fat reserves to release the ketones to burn as energy, whenever there are not enough sugars available either from carbs you’ve recently consumed or in your glycogen stores.
Eating a VLC (very low carb) diet, in which most of the carbs are replaced by fats, and by keeping protein intake moderate, what we aim to do is to kick our bodies into ketosis and remain there, so that we’ve switched from sugar as fuel, to fat as fuel. This way, combined with a calorie deficit, the body will burn the remaining calories each day from our fat stores, and we’ll burn fat. That’s the idea of the Keto diet, although a lot more research is required for the individual when it comes to trying to figure out what their calorie requirements are and what the deficit should be, and in my opinion it’s better to err on the side of caution, in terms of not having too large a deficit, as we don’t want our bodies to think we’re in a time of famine, we want our metabolism to be on full tilt.
Many, many people do incredibly well with the Keto diet, and I suspect there is more to this than just the body being in the state of ketosis. From my own experience so far, and from the research I’ve done, my personal opinion (and it’s just my opinion) is that the reason many people find this works for them (not everyone, but a lot of people who try it) is partly due to hormonal benefits (namely insulin regulation), and appetite suppression leading to maintained calorie deficit.
I find carbs very addictive, when I’m eating “normally” I find myself subconsciously overeating. I’ll eat the mountain of food on my plate, and then I’ll be craving sweet stuff. I’ll be stood in the kitchen and reach for a chocolate biscuit or something (and then another, and then another), without actually consciously deciding to do so, like a sugar craving robot.
When I go low carb, though, and higher fat (as I say, I’ve done this before although I’m going more to the extreme this time) once I’m into eating this way and I’ve got myself through the initial stage with willpower, I find that my hunger levels subside. I still get hungry at mealtimes, but it’s controllable, and I’m not as compelled to overeat, so keeping the calorie deficit is easier. I’m not addicted to fats or proteins, and I find when I am eating higher carb levels, I’m overeating habitually, driven by my carb addiction, not by actual hunger.
Why Do we Store Fat Anyway?
As far as I can work out, we store fat as it’s the best long-term energy backup storage facility we have at our disposal. We can only store a fairly small amount of glucose/glycogen, but we can store almost unlimited amounts of fat. We can store about 2000 calories of glucose on average, once there’s no glucose left, the body switches to burning your body’s fat reserves as fuel instead, and for every stone of fat there’s roughly 50,000 – 60,000 calories-worth!
It seems the human body hasn’t yet adapted from our cave-dwelling days. Back then, we would have needed to store all the energy we could for the long periods of shortage, and the body would have needed this flexibility in energy sources. These days though, food is much easier to come by, for most of us, that is. We don’t have to chase down and spear a quarter pounder with cheese, in fact if you did that you’d almost certainly end up being locked up.
So, I think it’s fair to say that for most human beings living in the 21st century don’t tend to use these survival features, and for us they’re more of a hindrance. But, this isn’t the same for all of us, there are people living in certain parts of the world, of course, who could only dream about having the “problem” of eating too much!
Also, even those of us who might not think we’d ever need to go days without food, may one day be in such a situation in which case the ability to live of our fat stores and to be able to flip energy sources on demand may keep us alive. Being shipwrecked on a desert island for instance, unlikely but not impossible.
Just look at what happened in Syria recently, before they had cars and supermarkets and normal everyday life – then all of a sudden millions of people who were previously living normal lives, are refugees, struggling to survive – lack of food probably being one of their least dangerous problems!
So actually, being designed to store fat like this which can keep us alive during famine, is a very good thing. We just need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap that many of us fall into of allowing ourselves to store far more fat than we’d ever need. Even people with a lean body fat percentage have thousands of calories of backup energy stored as fat.
Ok, so I’ve rambled on for ages now about the keto diet, now I supposed I’d better get onto the actual point of this post ;-), Keto Coffee – or more specifically, keto milky coffees.
What is Keto coffee?
There are little or no carbs in coffee, some macro aps will tell you there is, or there are carbs in Espresso but not filter, it’s nonsense, ignore. If anything, there’s likely to be more calories in cafetiere coffee as there is more coffee solids in the cup, but of this I would assume that the carb count is miniscule.
So Coffee not being suitable for Keto, refers to what you put in it, or, more importantly, what you don’t. If you usually drink coffee with milk and/or sugar, then this wouldn’t fit with keto, since there is carbs in milk (lactose), and if you take sugar, then just one teaspoon of sugar is over 4g of carbs – depending on how big and how heaped the teaspoon.
I’ve not taken sugar in coffee since I was a kid, putting sugar in my flasks of milky coffee to keep me warm during 6-8 hours of sitting next to a lake trying (and usually not succeeding) to catch fish, but I really do enjoy the milky coffees, in particular, flat white. Milky coffees such as flat white, latte & cappuccino contain quite a lot of milk.
Whole fat milk contains around 4.7g of carbs per 100ml, semi-skimmed is about 4.8, skimmed milk has 5. An 8 ounce flat white, for example, made with a double shot, contains around 150ml of milk, which is about 7g of carbs if you use full fat milk, slightly more if you use semi or skimmed.
One way around this, of course, is to just drink Espresso, or long black/Americano, and avoid the milk altogether, and I do that most of the time. In the mornings, I have an Espresso before I leave for work, and during the day in the week I drink coffee via the oomph or aeropress, but on Saturdays and Sundays I usually have a couple of flat whites, and I’d rather have them than not, as I really like them.
Keto Friendly Milk Substitutes?
Yes there are milk substitutes of course, some of which are more keto friendly.
These are the approximate carb contents per 100ml:
So I could go for soya, almond or hemp milk – the problem is, I just don’t like how they taste in coffee, and I don’t think I could get used to the taste. I’d rather just drink Espresso or Americano than a milky keto coffee that I don’t enjoy the taste of.
This is just my taste of course, some people like the milk alternatives, and if you do then great, you’re lucky ;-), you can just pick up a bottle or carton of that and no need to worry about messing about doing what I’m about to suggest ;-).
My Milk Substitute For Keto Coffee:
Double cream mixed with water and whole milk.
I was thinking about what I could use to substitute milk, which I actually like the taste of, and which works for steaming to a similar consistency to steamed milk – and the first thing I thought of, was double cream watered down. I tried it, and surprisingly it steams to a really nice microfoam, and it pours really well for latte art.
I steam around 180ml of milk for an 8oz coffee, around 30ml of this ends up left in the jug, so I’m using 150ml. 150ml of whole milk contains just over 7g of carbs.
I started off mixing double cream and water until I felt the consistency was similar to full-fat milk, and while this actually worked well in terms of texture, I wasn’t keen on the taste, it just tasted too much of cream – and cream actually has quite a strong aftertaste, I like it on strawberries, or chocolate cake (not really keto friendly 😉 ), but in coffee it’s a bit strong. I could probably get used to it, but I wanted to dampen that taste a bit, and make something which tastes closer to milk, so what I tried was mixing in some full fat milk.
With 50g of double cream, 50g of milk, and 80g of water, the macros for this per 150ml is 2.6g carbs, 23g fat, 2g protein.
With 40g of double cream, 40g of milk and 100g of water, the macros then per 150ml used to make a “Keto Coffee” is slightly lower carbs, 2.53g.
With 60g of double cream, 30g of milk and 90g of water, it’s 2.37g of carbs.
So if you can find a mix that works for you, the mix isn’t going to change the carb levels that much, and somewhere between 2-3g of carbs is obviously less than half the carbs in the same amount of whole milk.
I’ve been drinking my milky coffees with this keto milk/cream mix for a while now, and I’m really liking it! Each to their own, not everyone will like it, and I do find that I need some milk in the mix otherwise the cream taste is a bit overpowering, but maybe you’ll prefer just cream and water. Why not try it and comment to let me know what you think? Even if you’re not on the Keto diet, you can still give this a whirl 🙂
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