The Ketogenic Diet. Let’s break down what all this hype is about. The Ketogenic Diet has gained a massive amount of popularity recently through the health and fitness community. I’m going to tell you what it is, briefly how it works and discuss the claims that have been most commonly made on the subject. Let’s get started.
Before we get into the Ketogenic Diet, let’s break down some very simple nutrition basics. There are three major macronutrient groups that we are going to be paying attention to; proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These are nutrients that you find in the foods you eat every single day. The standard American diet consists of thirty five percent fat, fifteen percent of protein and fifty percent of carbohydrates. Now if you are looking at the Ketogenic Diet, the numbers are quite different with seventy five percent fat, twenty percent protein and only five percent of carbohydrates. Let’s take a minute to let that one sink in. That is ten times less carbohydrates then in the standard American diet!
How It Works
Let’s say you switch from your standard American diet to a Ketogenic diet. What happens inside of your body? You may see results quickly, but do you see the potential damage it is doing to inside your body? Your body deals with this very low carbohydrate consumption in two ways. First, it enters a state of ketosis in which fat provides most of the fuel which basically means it breaks down fats into something known as ketones and then uses those for energy. Simply put, your body begins to burn fat as its primary energy source and moves away from glucose which is a carbohydrate. The process of going into ketosis does take a few days and during those days people experience some adverse side effects such as brain fog, irritability, nausea and GI discomfort. You may have heard this labeled as the “Keto Flu”. The second process your body uses is Gluconeogenesis which is your body’s ability to create glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.
Now where did all this hype from the Ketogenic diet come from? Let’s take a look at the claims and find out what is true and what is not.
“Keto is good for weight loss.”
Yes, the Ketogenic diet is proven to make you lose weight and this happens through two important mechanisms. First, since you’re using fats as your primary energy source, you are burning a lot of stored fat. Secondly, because fat makes you feel full, when you eat a high fat content meal you don’t want to eat as much, therefore you limit the number of calories you are taking in. A lot of people are surprised when they start the Ketogenic diet, that they lose weight very quickly. But this is very misleading because the majority of the weight loss initially comes from water loss, not fat loss. For those of you who are seeking long-term weight loss, the Ketogenic diet is not super sustainable. Imagine you are going out for someone’s birthday and all your friends decide to go out and celebrate by getting ice cream…but you can’t have any because you are on the Ketogenic diet. In my opinion, this is absurd. You must be super vigilant when you are on the Ketogenic diet because carbohydrates have this nasty habit of just sneaking into your foods. Ketchup, apples, bananas, ice cream…no, no and no! So much for having a celebratory drink with your friends, because you can’t have that either. On a side note, did you know that drinking alcohol (in moderation) is good for you? Having a glass of wine, once a day can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease and help you live longer. I am not making this up, it’s science! So, for all my wine lovers out there reading this post, you’re welcome. Now let’s move on to the next claim.
“Keto is good for the brain.”
The truth of the matter is that the jury is still out on this one because science hasn’t really given us the answer yet. The research on this topic just hasn’t been completed yet. Which if research isn’t completed on a diet yet, a drug or anything else for that matter, why would you think it is a good idea to try it? I have heard some anecdotes from people that they are more focused when on the Ketogenic diet, but I have also heard and have experienced myself that they feel foggier and that the “Keto Flu” stays with them much longer than anticipated. I typically like to have more than anecdotes when starting something completely new, especially something as extreme as this diet but rather have some good quality research, which quite frankly the research hasn’t been completed yet. As I mentioned above, I did do a form of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, years ago before I had any knowledge of how to properly take care of my body. This diet was known as the Atkin’s diet. The truth is, all these fad diets are just diet’s re-skinned.
“Keto is good for some diseases.”
Yes and no. Where the Ketogenic diet really shines is in Type II Diabetes. When you have Type II Diabetes you have insulin issues, you have high sugar content in the blood and studies have shown that for people who have Type 2 Diabetes, the Ketogenic Diet helps reverse this. In my opinion, you could have the same outcome without all the negative side effects that highly likely comes along with following the Ketogenic Diet. On a side note, it is not the diet that reversed diabetes, it was the weight you lost which is attainable by a balanced diet and exercise!
Some potential harms that can stem from a Ketogenic diet are as follows:
- Nutritional deficiencies from limited diet and cutting out large food groups
- Increase in Bad “LDL” Cholesterol
- Kidney issues
- Bone issues
- Increased cancer risk when you are over eating processed and red meats
- Elevated heart rate
- Severe dehydration
Need I say more? The Ketogenic diet is too focused on weight loss rather than your overall health which is so important to understand. From my perspective, the moment that most people decide to commit to a weight loss regime, they become so narrow sighted that they put a date on when they need to lose weight by, typically it’s around thirty days, and can’t see the bigger picture. Luckily for me, through hours of research and trial and error, I can now clearly see the bigger picture. Once you change your mindset from “dieting” to making a lifestyle change, I promise you that you will see bigger changes then just your weight. A healthy lifestyle not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood. There is no shortcut and there is no “diet” to build a better, stronger version of yourself.
My overall thoughts on the Ketogenic diet is that it is a diet for someone who wants short term weight loss, with the risk of potentially gaining the weight back and starting from square one. In my experience, these fad diets do not work. For some people, fad diets may be a good option to kick off your weight loss journey, but I don’t suggest following them for a long period of time, if you can stick to a diet as extreme as this one for that long. For example, if you have a wedding or a vacation you are getting ready for and you are otherwise healthy, sure but just understand that even if you are seeing positive changes on the outside, there are risks that come along when you put the word “too” in front of the words “much” or “little”. The fact of the matter is, it is a very difficult diet to adhere to because of how much you have to drastically change your eating patterns, of the possible adverse effects that can come from following the diet and frankly the lack of knowledge and the lack of research that we have on its long term effects, all put into question, has really encouraged me to highly not recommend this diet. Being healthy and fit, is not a fad or a trend, it is a lifestyle. Once you truly realize that and live it, you can do anything you set your mind to.