THE KETOGENIC DIET: IS IT HEALTHY? BENEFITS? DOWNSIDES? RESULTS?
Okay - it's time. There has been non stop talk about this diet. I've kinda tried it, I've had friends who have tried it, and almost all of my clients have asked me about it at some point so I figured now would be a good time to go over it and give everyone the low down on it's benefits, it's downfalls, it's results and etc.
WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?
I mean every celeb from Halle Berry, Adriana Lima, Megan Fox, Gweneth Paltrow and the Kardashians have been fans of the ketogenic diet (AKA THE KETO DIET) yet a lot of us are still like, wtf is it...? And how does it realllly work?
But when we go on a low carb (100 grams of carbs or less) or very low carb diet (50 grams of carbs or less) our brain sort of goes into a brain starvation and needs fuel. The liver gets to work and starts making keytones (chemically known as keytone bodies) as a back up source of fuel for the brain.
Ketosis is the name of the metabolic state that your body goes into when you drastically reduce carbs which typically looks like anything from 20 - 50 g of carbs a day or less. To put that into perspective, the average American consumes 225 - 325 grams of carbs A DAY. Which obviously isn't recommended for the standard sedentary American considering approximately 71% of the population in the United States is overweight. (ARTICLE)
To break the keto down a little it further, it's also good to know that there are 3 different kinds of keto diets:
Standard Keto Diet (SKD) - Suggests Low carb (5%), Moderate Protein (20%), High Fat (75%)
Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD) - This one involves periods of higher carb days so it would look like 5 days of keto with 2 high carb days.
Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) - For this keto diet you just add carbs around workouts.
Then there's also something called high protein keto where people will do 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
So basically when you're on a keto diet you are dramatically reducing your carb intake and going on a diet that is very high in fat.
But like...my question is...how are we supposed to know when we're actually IN ketosis? Like if I don't eat carbs all day am I in ketosis by the end of it? I dove in on this info as well and this is what I rounded up.
Apparently it's possible for someone to enter ketosis after only 2 days but it could take up to a week. It depends on your activity level, lifestyle, body type and carbohydrate intake. After a few days you can see if you're really in ketosis by checking the amount of keytones in your blood. This is done by blood work or you can get what are called "keytone strips" and test through your urine at home.
What Do You Eat On A Keto Diet?
- Low carb veggies - greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions.
- Avocados - whole or as a guac if you'd like.
- Healthy Oils - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut, Avocado.
- Nuts/Seeds - Chia Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flax Seeds, Walnuts, Almonds.
- Cheese - Unprocessed Cheese (goat, mozzarella, cheddar).
- Butter and Cream - Go for grass fed.
- Eggs - Get pasteurized or Omega -3 Whole eggs
- Fatty Fish - Mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon.
- Meat - Red Meat, Steak, Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Chicken, Turkey.
What You Can't Eat On A Keto Diet
- Sugary Foods - Cake, Candy, Pastries, Soda, Fruit Juice.
- Grains or Starches - Wheat Products, Cereal, Rice, Pasta.
- Fruit - Small portions of berries are the only fruit allowed.
- Beans/Legumes - Peas, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Chic Peas.
- Root/Starchy Vegetables - Carrots, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes.
- Low Fat Products - Often are higher in sugar/carbs to replace the fats.
- Unhealthy Fats - Processed Vegetable Oils, Mayo.
- Alcohol - Due to it's carb content, most alcohol will throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar Free Diet Foods - These tend to be highly processed and are often high in sugar alcohols.
KETO DIET RESULTS
So this high fat diet was originally created in the 1920's to help children with epilepsy but at this point there are over 20 studies that show that this type of diet can not only improve your health but it can help people lose weight.
These studies also shows that following a keto diet may help battle diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's but the more general results include:
- Increased Mental Clarity
- More Energy
- Weight Loss - how much and how fast depends on; Sleep and stress. People will generally lose 3-10 pounds in the first week which is typically a lot of water weight. Carbs are made of water so this is what most people see first, not necessarily fat being burned off. After the first couple of weeks we can expect 1-2 pounds a week.
- A reduced carbohydrate diet will help reduce your blood sugars and increase your blood ketone levels. (According to this article).
IS A KETOGENIC DIET HEALTHY?
There are a ton of articles that go back and forth on whether or not it is healthy but it seems like for the most part - it is. Some of the initial short term side effects include:
- Bad Breath
These are some of the initial temporary side effects that usually disappear in a few days or a few weeks.
- Keto Flu - Having a drastic reduction in carbs can sort of shock the body and bring on withdrawl type symptoms so some people may experience:
- Stomach Pain
- Muscle Soreness
- Poor Concentration
- Muscle Cramps
- Sugar Cravings
- Difficulty Sleeping
These things can typically be avoided by drinking more water, avoiding very intense exercise, and replacing electrolytes. When insulin levels decrease, the kidneys release excess sodium so replenish that by having salty, potassium filled, keto friendly foods like leafy green veggies and avocados. Also make sure that you get adequate sleep.
Other but less common side effects include:
- Keoacidosis - A condition that occurs in uncontrolled diabetes. This has been reported in women who are breast feeding but it is very uncommon.
- Kidney Stones - Also uncommon but there have been cases of epileptic children who have developed kidney stones on a keto diet.
- Raised Cholesterol Levels - The "bad" or LDL Cholesterol levels have been known to rise as well as the overall cholesterol on a keto diet due to a higher consumption of saturated fats. This increases your blood pressure and puts you at much greater risk for heart failure.
Do I Recommend A Keto Diet?
So personally, I wouldn't recommend a keto diet to someone but if they wanted to do it, I don't think I would discourage them. What I like about a Keto diet is that it removes one of the biggest food groups that most Americans over consume which is carbohydrates. Carbs are NOT bad though. How much we need to consume depends on our activity levels and I understand that this is where people get confused. We think we need so much more of a carb intake than we really do when in reality, even people that are lifting weights at the gym 5 times a week can get by on a small amount of carbs.
We eat way too many carb sources, and are more sedentary than ever. So when we start a new diet or a new gym membership, there's motivation to get fit and healthy already in place so that's step one. Then there's a sense of structure with what foods you can have and what foods you can't have so what starts happening is you find new foods to eat, you find new things to do, and you exercise more because you're feeling good about yourself.
So if going on the Keto diet HELPS you put those things into place for the long term then I'm all for it. I think where a lot of people go wrong is they hear that because of things like the Keto diet...coconut oil, avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, butter, bacon, and loads of red meat are now the healthiest things to have.
I'm not saying they're healthy or unhealthy but what I'm saying is that there still isn't a sense of CONTROL and discipline. This causes many people to eat a multiple avocados in a day, on top of a ton of bacon, on top of a few bullet proof coffees and then they don't have the discipline to go on a low carb diet the way the need to in order to be in ketosis, so they over consume even more calories, and think they're being "healthy" while they're at it because the food choices are primarily healthy.
Is this making sense?
I think the best choice would be to get a health coach (I'm right here!) and spend some time addressing you're unhealthy patterns and build in a strong foundation of new healthy habits that will allow you to make good choices and be knowledgable on how much food your specific body really needs!
With all of that said - I tend to learn towards a diet that is primarily protein, then fats, then I usually get 50-90g total carbs a day so I'm obviously not in Ketosis but I am cautious of my carb intake and have always created recipes to align with that. Here's some ideas on my blog for you to check out!
- MORNING POWER UP SMOOTHIE
- BBQ TURKEY BOWL
- KALE SALAD WITH A HOMEMADE DRESSING
- HOMEMADE CEVICHE WITH FARMERS MARKET INGREDIENTS
What Experts Are Saying About The Keto Diet:
If you want some more info, here is a list of some people I've come across who wither support the keto diet or feel like it's not ideal. I got lost reading about so many different opinions and then I go MEGA lost once I started watching all of the videos on YouTube surrounding the "fad" diet. (Especially on Joe Rogan's page).
1. ABBEY SHARP - RD - BLOG - "First of all, I can’t deny the fact that people will lose weight on a keto diet. Here’s why. First of all, you’re eliminating a major food group. When you do that, you limit your food options and most likely your food intake, so it’s not rocket science that you’ll likely lose weight. Second, most people on a low carb diet tend to increase their protein intake in the absence of carbs and there is some evidence that consuming higher amounts of protein may have some weight loss benefits. "
2. MCKEL HILL - MS - RDN - LDN - BLOG - "There are many success stories out there and people who swear that ketogenic diets have worked for them and make them feel incredible, which is amazing! On that same note, the opposite story is true for those who it didn’t work for — it’s like this with diets across the board, there are no one-size fits all. I encourage you to think deeply about the motivation whenever you embark or entertain trying out a diet — is it for health, to make you feel your best, is it sustainable, will it allow you to socialize and enjoy the other beautiful moments of life, or will it cause you stress micromanaging your diet?"
3. KELLY LEVEQUE ON LAURENCONRAD.COM - HOLISTIC NUTRITIONIST - WELLNESS EXPERT - CELEBRITY HEALTH COACH - BLOG - "Kelly recommends first trying keto as a 6-week reset. It is perfectly fine to do keto long term, as it provides great brain fuel and it’s anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory. However, you will just want to make sure that if you are making it your lifestyle diet, you’ll never want to skimp on leafy greens and veggies or start replacing your healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado with unhealthy fats like lots of processed cheese and cured meats like pepperoni (which are high in fat, but not the good kind). It’s also a good idea to add a little more sodium into your diet when trying keto. Having a glass of pink salt water when you feel tired or dehydrated on keto can work wonders."
4. TANYA ZUCKERBOT - MS - RD - ON THE POPSUGARFITNESS - BLOG- "Sounds like a diet with benefits, right? Sure, this way of eating can be spot-on for certain individuals, and it may even be easy to sustain, but there's no way to avoid the shaky transition, which can result in some unsettling side effects, often called the "keto flu,""
Have you guys tried the keto diet? If so what are your thoughts?!