The ketogenic diet is one of them diets which has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, when I first heard about this diet a few years ago it was by watching a YouTube video of some bodybuilder bragging about how he ate bacon and eggs every day for breakfast and steaks for lunch and dinner, yet despite all this walked around 365 days a year at sub 10% body fat and claimed it made his skin glow, his mind ultra sharp and a bunch of other benefits. So, naturally like everyone else the first question to come to mind; ‘is there any truth to these claims?’
What is the keto diet?
First let’s take a look at what the keto diet actually is, the keto diet is a ultra low carbohydrate, high fat diet. The standard keto diet has you consuming over 70% of your calories from fat with carbs making up less than 10% of your calories and protein making up the remaining 20%.
What are the ‘claimed’ benefits?
· Improved heart health
· Improved cognition
· Improved liver health
· Mood improvements
· Better quality sleep
· Weight loss
· Appetite reduction
· Lower blood sugar
· Reduced inflammation
So what’s the catch?
The first thing to note is that with a lot of these diets, the ‘claimed benefits’ are often not unanimously agreed upon or supported in the scientific community and some things are more correlated to the diet than caused by the diet.
BUT, and this in my opinion is the biggest problem with keto, all of the magic comes from being in a state called ketosis. Ketosis is essentially a process which happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy so instead it burns fat releasing a substance called ketones. The problem is your body can store carbs, so you have to go through a depletion period where you are following the keto diet but not really getting the benefits instead you actually a lot of the time feel pretty terrible with something called ‘keto flu’ which a lot of people get as their body switches over from burning carbs to fats. The problem with this, and I’ve seen this happen with about two thirds of clients I’ve had who have tried this diet, they fall off the diet and go on a carb binge of pizza, ice cream and a bunch of other treats way before they are able to get into ketosis! The result is they never enter ketosis and get the benefits instead they just keep circling through keto flu stage and carb binge stage.
To keep the argument fair and unbiased I have actually known client’s who have tried keto, followed it to the letter and have had a great experience, felt great and got into amazing shape.
Who is keto for?
I definitely don’t think keto is for everyone, if you are someone who is going to want a cheat meal or don’t think you will be able to stick strictly to the restrictions, then I would not recommend keto because you will probably just end up dropping in and out of ketosis and never really getting a chance to experience the benefits of the diet, if this sounds like you then I would recommend just using a calorie and macronutrient control approach to dieting rather than an ultra high fat low carb approach.
It should be noted that the keto diet does have some amazing medical benefits for certain groups such as those suffering from epilepsy it can help with seizures and for those with diabetes it can help them to lose weight and control their blood sugar both of which can help with their condition enormously. WITH BOTH OF THESE CONSULT A DOCTOR FIRST BEFORE CHANGING TO THIS DIET! The lower blood sugar is a benefit for most people’s all round health however, some groups such as diabetics have to be a bit more careful because if they inject insulin they will have to reduce their dose otherwise their blood sugar could drop too low and they could go into a hypo!
So what are the tips for giving it a go:
· Make a list of all of the carb based foods you enjoy then ask yourself honestly can you go more than a month without eating them? If the answer is no, then I would say that this diet likely wont be very effective for you
· Look at your lifestyle and will this diet fit in? With any exclusion based diets your food intake needs to be slightly more specific and planned out, you can’t just pick up the first thing you see and eat it. So if you want to give this diet a proper go having some high fat meals and snacks prepared will go a long way to keeping you on track.
· Is it medically safe? The most important question about any proposed diet, is it medically safe and has a doctor given the all clear for the lifestyle change.
· Does the diet allow you to eat foods you enjoy? This point links onto sustainability, if you don’t like any of the foods you will be eating then you wont last very long on the diet, in order to achieve the high fat and low carb levels dictated by this diet you need to eat certain foods which fit that description of high fat low carb such as; nuts, avocados, fatty red meats and so on, if you don’t like any of these then you will likely find the diet hard to stick to and again it may not be suitable for you.
To conclude although there are many health claims behind this diet unless you are in a specific group where this diet could provide medical help with a condition you are experiencing then I think for a lot of people this diet will be a bit too restrictive. Other approaches such as intermittent fasting can bring many of the same benefits while not being as restrictive with what you have to eat. If you do however choose to give the keto diet a go then I would recommend giving the diet at least 2 months before you start to judge it, because it will take some time for your body to adapt to the new diet.
If you are interested in some help with your diet, then just drop me a message and we can get a Nutrition Consultation booked in.
Next week’s topic – Intermittent fasting