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Transitioning From Keto After Significant Weight Loss

Looking for some advice on my plan to incorporate more carbohydrates back into my diet after long-term keto and 120+lbs lost.

Stats: M/40/5’10"/CW 175lbs/Estimated BF 14%

Over the past two years I have reduced my weight from 305 lbs. to my current weight of 175 using a keto diet, calorie restriction, and exercise. My macros for keto were not the usual super high fat and moderate protein, more like 150-160g Protein, 70-80g Fat, and less than 20 net Carbs towards the end of my cut. My calories got down to about 1540 average when I reached my lowest body weight of 165 in February of this year.

Since hitting my lowest weight of 165 I have gained 10 lbs. due to several consecutive days and a week long vacation of not restricting calories, which included ALL the carbs (this was not the best idea after 2 years of calorie restriction and no carbs). This was about 4 weeks ago and since then I have resumed eating keto but at maintenance calories - basically same protein and net carbs but increased the fat macro to reach what I think is maintenance kcals of approximately 2,000.

Throughout my weight loss process and even while eating at maintenance cals for the past month, my ability to handle higher volume training has sucked. Strength went down significantly as well but I attribute much of that to changes in leverages and probably cutting kcals a little too low without any refeeds or at least higher calorie days thrown in periodically. Due to this, and having reached my weight loss goal, I have decided I would like to incorporate more carbohydrates back into my diet and change my training goal to focus on hypertrophy over the next 12 weeks.

Prior to my weight loss I spent years off/on in the gym lifting weights as a hobby, mainly focused on powerlifting but without much focus on nutrition (obviously). Since being keto for 2 years and weighing/tracking/prepping every single meal that went in my mouth, I have gained a lot of discipline when it comes to nutrition (excluding the vacation binge). However, I am very apprehensive to add carbs back into my diet since I have had so much success with keto. I just feel at this point, keto has been good to me and I will always have it as a tool but I want to focus on building lean body mass and I feel a diet with carbohydrates will be more optimal to achieve that goal.

My tentative plan is to add in carbs slowly. I am thinking of adding 50g carbs on training days in the form of something like oatmeal or sweet potato for about a week or two and then bumping up to 75-100g carbs the next week. I am also thinking I should consume those carbs pre/post training on those days as well. Eventually I would like to find the proper balance of carbs that fits me through trial / error but I don’t want to F’ this up.

Any feedback is appreciated.

One other thing I forgot to mention. My T levels have been low for years and I have finally had enough and started TRT this week. Don’t know if that matters in terms of adjusting diet but I’m sure my hormones will be a little sporadic as I try to dial in my dosage over the next few months.

I have never done keto, but I haven’t had bread, oats, rice, potatoes, etcetera (other than maybe once a month) in years.

I have had great success with deriving almost all of my carbs from some pseudograins, sweet potatoes (in moderation), beans, vegetables and fruit. I eat about 4000-5000 a day.

This sounds like a textbook plan for someone in your position. Having come from a keto/low carb background, I appreciate this can be easier said than done. However, it is a better strategy than something like the cyclical (CKD) approach which few folks ever get right.

I like the targeted approach (TKD), ingesting CHO pre-WO and maybe some intra before switching back to P+F meals. I have excellent workouts on 20g CHO pre and 5g CHO intra using cluster dextrins as the CHO source. And while I’m not keto per se, I usually enter workouts from a fasting-induced ketogenic state 2-3 times a week.

I also then try to have a 1-2 hour window between post-training and eating, as there is some (albeit, probably negligible) evidence suggesting elevated insulin levels can make keto dieters more prone to storing energy as fat at this time.

I think Evolv also makes a good point about CHO food choices.

I threw your stats into a TDEE calculator. Not knowing your activity level I selected “moderate.”

Based on your stats, the best estimate for your maintenance calories is
2,651 calories per day based on the Mifflin-St Jeor Formula, which is widely known to be the most accurate. The table below shows the difference if you were to have selected a different activity level.

Basal Metabolic Rate 1,710 calories per day
Sedentary 2,052 calories per day
Light Exercise 2,351 calories per day
Moderate Exercise 2,651 calories per day
Heavy Exercise 2,950 calories per day
Athlete 3,249 calories per day

I don’t think you’re eating nearly enough, so it would seem to me that adding quality carbs in slowly with a goal to increasing your overall caloric count to the appropriate level above. 100 kcals/day for a week until you start to gain, then hold for a week or two to see if it levels off. If it doesn’t level off after a couple of weeks (let’s say you’re now at 2400) reduce by 100/day until you’re back at goal, hold steady for a month or so, then try again, maybe more slowly now (add 50/day).

75-100 carbs is still a low carb diet. If that’s where you feel best, okay, but recognize that it’s still pretty much a diet. A couple of days ago I logged just under 1200 calories, and had 80g of carbs. They came from 6 oz milk (9g), quarter cup egg noodles (in soup), 1 cup jasmine rice (46g), and asparagus (6g). Additionally, I had 2 eggs, bacon, salmon, and cauliflower…none of which had carbs.

Generally I’m higher in both calories and carbs - that was just a weirdly low day (I dropped 2lbs). I can’t imagine trying to achieve in the gym with this as my regular intake, and it’s a direct comparison to what you’re doing. My moderate maintenance intake should be around 2000, with 1200 being appropriate for someone with my stats who is sedentary.

Just stuff to consider. Good luck!

First, congrats on the weight loss–truly an amazing feat, and one about which I hope you’re very proud.

Second: During your diet, did you ever check to see whether you were actually in ketosis? Because based on your macros I suspect you weren’t. (This is an observation, not a criticism.)

If you’re looking to gain some muscle, adding carbs back would probably prove helpful. As mentioned above, do so around your lifting–the first 30-50 g or so pre-workout, the remainder in your post-workout meal(s). On days you don’t lift, stick with your low-carb diet.

A word of caution: All those fact cells shrank, but they didn’t disappear. Further, dieting this hard for this long has undoubtedly slowed your metabolism. So add carbs/calories back s-l-o-w-l-y.

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Someone who’s net CHO intake (not to mention generally low overall energy intake) will most certainly be in ketosis - regardless of his protein macros. This is something of a myth perpetuated by the keto crowd.

Totally agree about the fat cells. As a former fat boy, I have fallen foul of that a few times before.

Thanks for the feedback. I work in an office so my activity level outside of the gym is pretty sedentary. I lift 3 days/wk, LISS 2 days and HIIT 1 day. Weekends i try to remain as active as possible but doesn’t always work out that way.

Considering my long-term deficit and coming from an obese state I am being really cautious to not overdue my calorie increase. Even trying to stick to 2k cals I find myself hungry at times and end up to 2,300-2,400 some days. It has been a long road and I am hypersensitive to letting the fat guy back out again.

I like the idea of adding in quality carbs/cals, assessing and then adjusting if necessary. Mainly i am interested to see how my body responds to carbs as I reintroduce them slowly. Never thought finding maintenance would be just as difficult as following a deficit.

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Thanks and yes I’m pretty proud of the weight loss, just not happy with loss of strength / muscle mass.

Never checked my ketone levels once. I wasn’t really concerned about my ketone levels as long as the diet kept working.

Slowed metabolism and a body that is primed for fat storage is my biggest concern. That’s why I am so apprehensive about reintroducing carbs and increasing calories. If I am honest, this weight loss journey has also created some disordered eating behavior. I shouldn’t fear carbs nor do I think it is good to label foods as “good” or “bad” but that is exactly my way of thinking right now. That’s also why the vacation resulted in weight gain because I felt like that was my ONE opportunity to have all of the food I had restricted for so long. On top of the fact I removed any calorie restrictions. Needless to say, not healthy mentally or physically and I need a more structured approach.

What would be your suggestion for this?

I would call that moderate. I read a research-based article about the Fitbit-inspired “10,000 steps a day” craze, and it was saying that a significant difference in life expectancy was seen at 4K steps, with people logging less than 3K having poorer outcomes. And I was like how the fuck does anyone get less than 3K steps a day?? I’m a psychotherapist, so I sit in a chair talking all day, and on the days I don’t work out, I probably get 5K steps. On workout days I get anywhere from 8-16K.

When I’m home and do minimal housework - make something to eat a couple of times, do the dishes, maybe half-ass make the bed and fix the pillows on the couch, shower - I get around 5K.

Sedentary people are the ones who putter around a bit and watch a lot of TV when they’re not doing their sedentary jobs.

So long as your level of apprehension isn’t so high as to be causing significant emotional distress, such a concern isn’t a bad thing.

One challenge posed by ‘dieting’ (I’ll explicate the scare quotes very shortly) is that, by definition, it necessitates an eventual transition to some manner of ‘non-diet’ eating–and for many people, non-diet eating = overeating. This trap is set as soon as you tell yourself you’re dieting, because you have indicated (to yourself) that you’re engaged in a temporary change in eating habits.

Now that you’ve lost all this weight, it’s time to stop thinking in terms of dieting, and start thinking about how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life. This is really what your post is about-- finding the right “structured approach,” to use your term. And the challenge you face in this regard is coming up with an eating plan that meets, at a minimum, the following goals:

  1. No long-term increase in bodyfat;
  2. allows the accretion of muscle; and
  3. doesn’t require so much effort/willpower as to make you miserable, and/or be unsustainable.

What sort of plan should you adopt? With regard to 1&2 the answer is easy–a plan that keeps your average daily caloric intake at a skoshe above maintenance. The trick is figuring out how to do this while still achieving goal #3. Happily, there are many ways to skin that cat. (With apologies to any cat lovers put off by the proverb.)

Your idea of 100 cals/d of carbs is very reasonable. However, as I suspect OP might benefit from a carb/calorie-cycling approach, I would suggest he take his extra 100 carb-cals/d x 7d/week = 700 carb-cals/week, and have them only on the three days/week when he lifts. Further, I would rec having those carbs around lifting, as I mentioned above.

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Did you retest your testosterone? First off, raising carbs tend to raise free testosterone, and second, a lot of people end up with normalized testosterone after large weight loss after returning to maintenance calories for a few weeks. It is really depressing to me that you lost all of that weight and then never got to see if your testosterone levels normalized on maintenance calories and with some carbs. I mean you are 40% smaller. Your testosterone levels should go up 60% just from having less volume to fill up, and your sensitivity should be higher (and estrogen conversion lower) from the fat loss. Honestly, I am so bummed thinking that you went on T-replacement at the worst possible time, I don’t even want to go any further into the conversation.

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I did wonder about this. And also whether his protein sources were nutrient dense, e.g. beef, organ meats, eggs, salmon, etc.

TBH, as a Brit, it surprises me how often I read posts on this site about guys, usually in the USA, on TRT. Some are bloody young, too.