I am pretty sure you’ve all heard of the Keto diet by now. “Your friend has lost 20 lbs on a Keto diet…or my trainer recommends it as a great nutrition plan to lose fat.” Some of you may have even tried it!
- Do you “really” know what a Keto diet is?
- Do you know if you’re actually in ketosis?
- Do you even know what ketosis is?
Let’s break down this popular diet!
First, to get some definitions out of the way...
Soooo what is the keto diet?
Eating a ketogenic diet means you’re eating low enough carbs so that your body begins running on ketone bodies (which are produced in the liver from breaking down fat) for fuel (energy) instead of running on glucose (energy from carbs). For the average person, it takes about 2 weeks to naturally get into ketosis through a keto diet. Not a fun process! Hence the term HANGRY!!!
Okay, I am still interested, how to I implement it into my diet?
A keto diet consists of about 70% of your calories from fats, 20% protein, and 10% or less from carbs. To put this in perspective, the average American diet is usually 50% carbs, 34% fat, and 16% protein. This means that you can only consume about 35-75g carbs per day depending on your total caloric needs. Hence the reason some call it a low carb diet. Not a very easy feat to achieve or sustain for a long period of time!
Further, there is a healthy way to eat on the Keto diet (healthy fats, lean proteins, and veggies), and an unhealthy way to eat (unhealthy fats, fatty proteins, processed carbs or sugar).
Benefits of a Keto diet
Who doesn’t love a solid helping of fats with their meals?! The good news is that fats are an essential part of your diet protocol. Fats support our hormone production, brain function, and have nine calories per gram, helping us feel satiated (full). Please note: there are healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, egg yolks, etc…) and less healthy fats (mayonnaise, vegetable oils, standard American butter, etc…). Choose wisely!!!!
Benefits of eating a keto diet include:
- Improved weight loss: by converting fat into ketone bodies to be used as fuel, your body is working harder = more fat burning.
- Blood sugar control: Fewer carbs and less sugars means lower and more stable blood glucose levels. Consistent energy level; no big energy spikes or valleys!
- Brain health: While research is ongoing, some studies have shown that eating a diet rich in high quality fats has improved alertness, mental clarity, and memory retention.
Cons of a Keto diet
If you are a high intensity athlete, like a CrossFitter, the keto diet is probably not for you. Training is a stressor to our central nervous system and the best way to recover from that stress is with carbohydrates. Remember, carbs are the body’s preferred energy source. It is very likely that your workouts will suffer if you try to hop on the keto bandwagon. A great analogy is that ketones are like 87 octane and carbs are like jet fuel. Ketones burn consistent, but they are slow. Carbs burn fast and help fuel intense athletes and active adults.
Other reported negative effects of the Keto diet include sluggishness, GI issues, feeling restricted in eating choices, and the potential for very high cholesterol.
Interested in going keto?
If you have had issues losing weight, think you might be insulin resistant, are not an intense athlete, or just want to experiment on yourself, you might be a good candidate for the keto diet. I highly recommend speaking to your health professional before making any drastic diet changes and would also urge you to hire a nutrition coach (hey there - @carolineofenstein).
It’s important to note that you should test your blood/urine/breath to make sure you’re actually in ketosis if you embark on this nutrition protocol. There are a variety of tests available that measure the amount of ketones in your body so you can be sure you’re truly in ketosis.
I hope the above info helped calm your mind from all the keto-madness out there and that you now feel more prepared to make the best decision for yourself on whether a low carb/high fat diet might be for you!
Questions? Shoot me a message on Instagram @carolineofenstein!
Sources and further reading:
Lugavere, M. and Grewal, P. (2018). Genius Foods. New York, NY: Harper Wave.