Updated: Feb 28
The Keto diet is not a new thing but we are constantly hearing more and more about it as a revolutionary fat loss diet plan. I think the hardest part when preparing to start a fat-loss plan is determining fact from fiction, truth from myth, and well-designed marketing from reality.
If you are holding too much body fat and you're wanting to clear out some unwanted kg's, then you might consider a "diet'. What diet means in regards to fat loss is a negative energy balance i.e burn more calories than you consume, how you achieve this down to the individual.
Keto also knows as the Ketogenic diet is becoming increasingly popular for its ability to burn fat fast. Firstly let's look at the biochemical mechanisms at play. The Keto diet involves eliminating the majority of the macronutrient, carbohydrates from the diet and increasing the amount of fat consumed. In the absence of carbohydrates, the body doesn't have access to its primary fuel source being glucose, so it starts to produce its own in the liver utilizing stored and dietary fats to produce Ketones. Once this process begins your body is in a state of Ketosis and you primed for burning fat for energy. Sounds great right, wait let's dive a bit deeper.
Now let's look at how we make up this diet from our macronutrients. The three macronutrients that make up our daily caloric intake are carbohydrates, fats, and protein. The generally accepted ratio for Keto is 75-80% Fat, 15-20% Protein & 5-10% Carbs. On a 2000 calorie per day diet that would put your daily carbohydrate intake around 25-50 grams per day.
This is a very low amount of carbs considering an average apple contains 14 grams and a banana has around 23g. So you would have to make sure you track your macros, especially at the start so you can learn which foods to include and which to eliminate or reduce.
Things to consider-
Track your macros. If your carb intake is too high then you won't enter ketosis, and you will just be over-consuming fat. Fat contains 9 calories per gram compared with protein and carbs that have 4 calories per gram. So its much easier to over-consume calories with a high-fat diet.
As well as tracking your Macros, keep track your calories also. If your looking to lose body fat this will help to make sure you a still hitting a calorie deficit. If you're in ketosis but you are over-consuming calories then you will still have a potential net increase in fat storage compared to fat utilized in ketone production if you're constantly over your maintenance calories.
Increasing fat consumption doesn't mean unhealthy fats. Fats from healthy food options such as meat, fish, eggs, avocado, and nuts/seeds should be prioritized.
Eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, green beans, broccoli, cucumber, zucchini these are low carb but contain micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals which your body needs for energy and repair.
If your fussy when it comes to eating green vegetables or having fish etc included in your Keto diet. Consider including an Omega 3 supplement that is high in EPA and DHA and a good quality multivitamin to make sure you're still getting adequate nutrients.
Note: While your learning about the nutrient profiles of food that fit into your diet, this can be quite time consuming and constricting, so make sure you are doing it correctly. You can still achieve the same fat loss results from a balanced healthy diet that still includes the foods you love as long as your in a calorie deficit overall. When tracking calories, don't obsess over small amounts, 100 calories over one day, is not going to ruin your progress.
One aspect that I don't see when Keto is marketed is the importance of drinking lots of water. Under normal conditions, carbohydrates are responsible for water retention when glycogen is stored in muscle and liver tissue. Which can be utilized for energy when required, by being converted to glucose. During ketogenesis, glycogen stores are depleted and retained water excreted. This is the main reason for rapid weight loss at the beginning of the keto diet as glycogen stores are depleted and not replenished. Because your body doesn't retain water in the absence of carbohydrates its important to drink plenty of water and also make sure you are getting enough electrolytes ( sodium, potassium, and magnesium ) which are excreted by the kidneys due to low insulin during this process.
Things to consider-
Adding certified Himalayan salts to your cooking to boost up your sodium levels. Sodium is the most depleted electrolyte during ketosis.
Set a water daily intake goal and track the amount you are drinking. Aim for at least 2-2.5 litres per day. More if it's hot and if you're doing increased exercise.
Note: Lack of water and electrolytes can lead to headaches, low energy, muscle cramps as well as other negative symptoms. This has been referred to as the Keto flu, which normally occurs when just starting. If you feel like these are starting to occur, increase you're Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium intake this should help alleviate symptoms.
Some of the other benefits associated with ketosis can be;
Improved cognitive function.
Ketones, like glucose, are an efficient energy source for the brain. Under normal conditions, the brain relies on glucose as its main fuel source for cellular processes. In the absence of carbohydrates, the brain can switch to utilizing ketones for energy, there are still however some areas of the brain that rely solely on glucose. During ketosis, this usually comes from the small number of carbohydrates that are consumed or through a process called gluconeogenesis where the liver can create glucose from amino acids. Ketone bodies can pass through the blood-brain barrier thus they become a viable fuel source and can enhance mental clarity and memory.
Note: You can get the cognitive benefits of Ketones from Keto products that contain BHB, know as exogenous ketones normally found as BHB Salts.
Inflammation in the body can occur for many reasons, such as exercise, or even from certain foods we eat such as sugar, processed grains and high fructose fruits. One of the benefits of a keto diet is the reduction in inflammatory foods and the increase of foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties that are high in omega 3, such as fish, nut & seeds, and some oils.
Note: You don't need to be on keto to eat these foods and you can also include an Omega 3 supplement into your programming that can help reduce inflammation.
It has been found that athletes on the ketogenic diet can have better endurance. This is mainly due to the body relying on an energy source that itself is creating compared to relying on glucose and stored glycogen. However, this is only prevalent for a long time endurance events and doesn't impact shorter exercise performance.
Note: If you are not an endurance athlete, then this is little benefit to you.
Reduced sugar cravings
Reductions in sugar cravings have been associated with the ketogenic diet, largely to the removal of insulin spiking foods from the diet. So this can be an effective strategy if you're prone to falling to sweet temptations.
Note: You can still reduce sugar cravings with a healthy balanced diet, you don't have to go keto to achieve this.
There are pros and cons to the keto diet. However, at the end of the day, the question is, is Keto the best option and is it sustainable, for the majority of people its not. Making sure you are in ketosis can be quite difficult and stressful, so weighing up the benefits and whether they facilitate your goals is crucial. The fat loss element of keto comes from creating a caloric deficit, generally by high caloric foods that have been removed from the diet. Along with a little bit of reduction in overall weight from retained water being removed, this gives the association of keto and weight loss. So if fat loss is what you want, it can be achieved with a healthy balanced diet as long as you create an energy deficit. You can still do this without removing the food groups that you enjoy. If you are currently doing keto, you feel great, you're hitting your goals and you're happy, then keto could be for you. If not, eat healthy increase exercise and watch your caloric intake this will lead to a more sustainable and flexible lifestyle.
Disclaimer: This is the opinion of the author, and is for information purposes only, and solely for the use of promoting healthy choices and environments.