What is the Keto Diet and should I be doing it?
Somewhere during the last year with the birth of our youngest, we got lost in the day to day craziness of running a business and dropped the ball on our blog articles. Perhaps we were over-zealous with one new article a week. Or perhaps going from one kid to two kids was much crazier than we anticipated. Let’s go with somewhere in the middle of both.
Anyway…we are BACK!
While we won’t be aiming for a new article every week (that was a tad over-zealous), we do promise new content on a much more regular basis. We will also be revisiting our Q&A Tuesdays, where we take a popular health and fitness question and break it down for you.
Without further ado…this week we are tackling, “What is the Keto Diet and should I be doing it?” Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the keto diet has been the hot diet for the last few years and it seems that just about everyone is taking about it…Keto Guido anyone?
In this article, we will be breaking down the basics of what the keto diet is and how it works, along with the pros and cons on the diet. We’ll also address, if it’s for you. If that sounds of interest to you, continue on 🙂
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto (short for Ketogenic) diet is essentially a low-carb, high fat diet. Since carbs are limited on the keto diet, the body turns to fat for fuel and places the body in a state of ketosis, hence the term, “keto”.
In terms of macro breakdown, carbs are very, very low, clocking in around 5% of your daily needs or 30-50 grams per day. Fat is high, 75% of your daily needs and protein is adequate, around 20% of your daily needs.
Interestingly enough, you may of heard of the keto diet in the medical world, before it turned into the latest fad diet. It has been used to help manage conditions such as epilepsy. And while the keto diet may work for some, it’s designed to be a shorter term diet, not a long term one.
What can I eat on the Keto Diet?
Meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, avocados, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt and butter) and low carb vegetables in smaller amounts. More notably, what’s not allowed on the diet is bread, pasta, all other starchy carbs, beans, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and most fruits. Even higher starchy carbs such as corn are only allowed in small portions.
Pros of Keto Diet?
The most obvious pro to the keto diet is weight loss. And as a bi-product of weight loss, there can be other health benefits such as lower blood sugar, blood pressure, overall cholesterol, reduced inflammation, etc. Many people also note an increase of energy after a few weeks (sometimes closer to 4-6 weeks) into the diet.
In the bigger picture, there are studies that show a decrease in seizure activity for people who suffer from epilepsy. And while more research needs to be done in this area, there have also been studies that show the keto diet (and other low carb diets) can lead to a decrease of potential cancer and may also help to treat various forms as well. Again, more research needs to be done in this area.
Cons of Keto Diet?
Adhering to the keto diet is challenging. For many people, the extremes of the diet (no carbs in particular) can be opposite of what they are used to and force a major lifestyle/diet change. And while the diet can be successful at short term weight loss (due to the extreme changes), it’s not realistic for the long term (more on this below).
Have you heard of the “keto flu”? Honestly, we hadn’t until recently. The keto flu describes how crappy the beginning of the diet can be. Since you’re cutting out most carbs and sugar, this period can act as almost a detox-like stage. Enter dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, grumpiness and you know, just being HANGRY 😱
The “keto flu” tends to clear up after a few weeks, although some people have noted it can take longer in the range of 4-6 weeks to really start feeling better. Once it’s passed and your body has adjusted to a lower glucose supply, you should start to feel balanced out, even a sense of heightened energy. Many people also note a major decrease in hunger and cravings as well (you can add that to the pro list!).
Due to the high fat content of the keto diet, there are also concerns about heightened cholesterol (specifically LDL levels) and the impact it can potentially have on the heart. If this is an individual concern, a simple drop in overall fat content would be recommended. Something to consider, if high cholesterol runs in your family (genetically predisposed), the keto diet may not be the best for you.
As previously mentioned, the keto diet is not recommended for longterm use. Since the diet is so low carb, which requires the cutback or elimination of many fruits and some vegetables, you can run a risk for vitamin/mineral deficiency. While a few weeks may not impact your health, months can certainly do so. Thus, the keto diet is generally recommend for short term use, a cycling approach or modified, more relaxed version.
Lastly, the biggest con to the keto diet, as with any extreme diet, is the potential for weight re-gain. We all know someone that has dropped a significant amount of weight on the keto diet, or on any other diet for that matter. And while weight loss in most cases is a positive thing for health purposes, weight re-gain or yo-yo dieting is not so good. Not only can this be tough from an emotional perspective, it can also be tough on your body and put a strain on your metabolism.
Is the Keto Diet for me?
Good question. Maybe ✅, maybe ❌. Just like all other extreme diets, here are a few good questions to ask yourself before jumping on board:
👉 Am I ready, willing and able to make major nutritional and lifestyle changes?
👉 Do I thrive from being on an eating plan with major limitations and restrictions?
👉 Do I have any health issues or disorders that would present any complications by being on the keto diet? Always best to ask your doctor first!
👉 Do I have a history of yo-yo dieting or jumping on the latest diet fad? If so, have I been successful in the longterm with any of these approaches?
👉 Does being on a restrictive eating plan cause negative behaviors? Think disordered eating👇
Dependent on your answers above, the keto diet may be a good fit for you, or at least something to give a try. At best, it works for you and your lifestyle. At worst, it’s not the best fit and you walk away with a few positive, new behaviors such as lessened sugar in your diet. And if the keto diet is not the best fit for you, that’s OK!
Our take-away on the Keto Diet…
You may have noticed that our above con list is a bit longer than our pro list. Keto diet aside, we aren’t big fans of diets in general. Diets can be extreme, restrictive and mostly unrealistic for long term health.
With that being said, there are some positive attributes to the the keto diet. It does push people to make better nutritional decisions — more high quality proteins, increased vegetables, absence of junk and fast food. These are all unarguably, really great things.
At the same time, the keto diet also cuts out entire food groups — such as starchy carbs and sugar, which although should be consumed lightly, can be a great source of enjoyment and pleasure in life! And like many other diets, due to the restrictiveness, it can even spark disordered eating for some people.
The keto diet is ultimately very similar to many other diets. And while it’s easy to see why people succeed on this diet (for the short term anyway), the keto diet, along with any other strict diet, is not necessary to achieve similar, and more importantly, long term results.
Instead of an all or nothing approach, or before jumping on the diet bandwagon, try this approach instead: lessen your starchy carbs, choose whole grains, high quality lean proteins, eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, limit sugar, junk/snack food and alcohol. Chances are, if you follow these tips, you’ll see a decrease in unwanted weight and body fat and an increase in overall health. And most importantly, for the long term. It may not sound hot and sexy like the keto diet, but it’s simple and simple works 🙂
Written by Sophie DeHenzel
What is the Keto Diet and should I be doing it?
Photos courtesy of (top to bottom): me.me., slidehare.net, omnicalculator.net, pop sugar.com, cooksmarts.com, fao.org, signumcrossfit.com, brittanyguerin.com.
Hi, I’m Sophie. I’m Co-Owner of DeHenzel Training Systems, Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified, Certified Personal Trainer and Pre/Post Natal Specialist. I’m also a wife, mom, tennis beginner and ice cream lover.
Most importantly, I love helping people just like you gain control of their health for good. If you’re tired, frustrated and still struggling to rein in your diet and get moving, check out our nutrition and personal training services and take the first step today.
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