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Focus On: The Ketogenic Diet

Hi friends! How’s the morning going? Hope you’re having a great day so far. We had an amazing time with Tom’s mom this past week, and it’s back in the swing of things today. This means packing extravaganza really begins (WAH), and we’re getting everything in order for the big move. Changes are a-comin’, my friends. It’s exciting, awesome, and kind of horrible at the same time.

For today, I thought we could take it back to old school and talk about an eating strategy that has gained a lot of traction over the past few years: the ketogenic diet (or “keto”). This isn’t a topic of personal experience, but a handful of friends love ketosis. I thought I’d write a focus on post about what it is, how it works, and why my thoughts are on this popular diet strategy. Please keep in mind that I’m not an RD; just a fairly sane human sharing my thoughts. If you need help seeking out a personalized nutrition plan for your unique needs, seek out the help of a local Registered Dietitian.

What is a ketogenic diet? Find out more at fitnessista.com

So what is the ketogenic diet?

Ketosis is all about using fat as energy, instead of using carbs. Apparently if you deplete your carb stores enough, the body will switch into ketosis, using fat as a source of fuel. This can make it a super effective fat loss strategy, but surprise: not many carbs are to be found in your life. If you like pizza as much as I do, this is a very sad fact indeed.

keto-friendly grilled chicken bowl

Here’s how it works:

We are actually in a ketogenic state occasionally throughout the day (and night), no matter how many carbs you eat. When we eat carbs or excess protein, the excess amounts are converted into glucose. This helps to give the body energy, and support our activities and internal functions. When we have leftover glucose, it will either be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, and after we’ve hit our cap, it’s stored as fat in the body. When the body is out of glucose and glycogen, that’s when ketosis happens.

From this site:

“When your body has no access to food, like when you are sleeping or when you are on a ketogenic diet, the body will burn fat and create molecules called ketones. We can thank our body’s ability to switch metabolic pathways for that.

These ketones are created when the body breaks down fats, creating fatty acids, and burned off in the liver in a process called beta-oxidation. The end result of this process is the creation of ketones, which are used as fuel by the muscles and brain.”

A handy infographic:

 

Source

My thoughts:

I could see how this could be a fairly satisfying way to eat because when you consume high levels of fat and protein, you feel full. You can eat tons of veggies, load up on lean protein, and enjoy delicious healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, avocado, nuts/seeds, and on and on. This article also discusses the potential increased energy from ketosis -though in the past, I think that eating super low carb dragged me down.

Basically, I see this as the new Atkins: sure, it probably works in the short term, but I think it’s unnecessarily restrictive. I could certainly see how this works well for “all or nothing” personality types (or abstainers!), but for long-term success, it’s not something I would recommend. For many of the friends I know who have used this diet, it’s not something that they do consistently, even though some of them say they would like to. I think it’s because it’s just too dang unrealistic to follow. Sometimes you need to have a slice of birthday cake at a special event, you need some carb-y tapas and appetizers with friends, or you need more carbs to fuel your activities or fitness levels. This can lead to feelings of failure if you’re trying to stick to a restrictive diet like this one, when in reality, you’re just living life. In the short term it could work for fat loss, but I think over the long term any weight/fat that was lost would be gained back with the return of eating a higher level of carbs (even if they’re healthy carbs). 

Cheers at IDEA World

(Basically if wine isn’t part of an eating plan, I don’t like it. PS I miss these girls.)

One of the things that concerned me about the keto diet was the potential to damage your metabolism. I unintentionally messed up my metabolism many years ago from doing too much activity without enough fuel, and it took a while for me to normalize my hormones and be able to eat a higher amount of calories without gaining weight. (Now I can easily eat 2000+ per day and it’s NBD.)

From this site: 

“‘Some in the medical community think that continued ketosis is dangerous because it could stress out your liver and cause destruction to your muscle tissue,’ says Siegfried. Other complications include constipation, hypoglycemia, vitamin deficiencies, kidney stones, balance issues, loss of bone density, headaches, light headedness, menstrual irregularities, and dehydration, she says. Plus, loading up on unhealthy sources of saturated fat or even O.D.-ing on healthy fat can lead to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels.”

The bottom line: I think it’s so important to make healthy changes you can maintain for the long haul. Before you change anything with your fitness or diet, think about whether you want to do it forever. If the answer is no, try to think of some small changes that you will be able to easily implement and keep. Consistency is the key to success, and when you’re able to maintain small changes, it’s that much more motivation to keep going.

So, tell me friends: have you tried keto or any other low-carb diets? How did you feel? How does it compare to how you eat today? Anyone follow a ketogenic diet and absolutely love it? 

xoxo

Gina

More Focus On posts here:

The Raw Food Diet

Paleo

Weight Watchers

South Beach

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41 Comments

  1. Jessica @ Semi-Sweet Tooth on March 29, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Interesting! I’ve been hearing mutterings about ketogenic diets, but haven’t looked much into them. (I’m much more of a moderator when it comes to food.) I had no idea how similar it was to Atkins!

    Thanks for your thoughts on this – with the amount of diets going around, it’s always good to understand a bit more about them so that we know what works best for us each individually!

    XO, Jessica
    http://www.semisweettooth.com

  2. Christina @ montessoriishmom.com on March 29, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Thanks for posting this! I had seen references to a keto diet but had no clue what it was. I feel low on energy if I don’t eat carbs, but do find I feel a ton better when I stick to whole food carbs rather than crackers, etc.

  3. Katie @ A Full Plate on March 29, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Thank you for doing a post on this Gina! I’ve recently just heard about ketogenic and like any other fad “diet” I too thought it sounded restrictive. I enjoyed your thoughts on it and think they are helpful. I do wish these diets would stay hidden somewhere…it’s just all about balance people!

  4. Nathaly @NathyCure on March 29, 2017 at 7:12 am

    I can’t live without carbs. If I don’t eat carbs, I can’t run. And If I can’t run, I feel miserable.

    I’m all for truly listening to your body when it comes to food choices. The ketogenic diet might work for some, but I honestly don’t think is the right fit for me.

  5. Taryn on March 29, 2017 at 7:36 am

    For some reason I don’t feel “satisfied” after a meal if it doesn’t contain carbs. What I’ve started focusing on is the ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. And for carbs I generally lean towards potato, rice/oats, and fruit. But there are also days when the only thing that will satisfy me is a bowl of crunchy tortilla chips or a roll with butter. And I think that’s okay. I take the 85/15 approach, so I strive to make healthy choices 85% of the time, leaving me room for ice cream, chips, and bread. And I prefer to think of this as a long-term way of eating, not a diet plan.

  6. Sam @ Hygge Wellness on March 29, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Very interesting! I’m with you — it’s too complicated. Like Michael Pollan said, eat food. not too much. mostly plants.

  7. Juliana on March 29, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I’m skeptical of the science behind this. Like the Atkins diet, I feel like this must be hard on your kidneys. I read a scholarly article about this not too long ago, but I can’t find it now. Let’s just say that my kidneys are organs I’d rather have functioning properly.

  8. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 29, 2017 at 8:34 am

    As a nutritionist, I couldn’t love your message more. There’s no diet like eating a healthy balanced one that comes from building habits. Short term solutions like these always have consequences and never yield long term results.

  9. mary on March 29, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I wouldn’t do it because it’s too restrictive for me. But I know people who do.

    I wouldn’t say “you can eat tons of veggies”. Though I suppose you can eat a lot of lettuce. But keto minimizes carb intake and veggies are carbs.

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      yeah i should have specified low-carb veggies. the people i know who have done it eat a lot of lettuce, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, etc

  10. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 29, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Hi Gina! Love that pic hahah! 🙂 I’m SO glad you wrote about this. I have definitely been reading and hearing a lot about ketosis and the ketogenic diet, and I totally agree that it is too restrictive. This is NOT a long-term way to live. The scary thing is that it takes a LONG time for the body to naturally get into the ketosis state too, so you have to go without carbs for a while before you feel the benefit. Apparently there are products out there that can force the body into ketosis faster, but that just scares me. I would not want to live a life with no carbs. I am eating carbs as I type this. Enough said. Thanks for covering! 🙂

  11. Jessi on March 29, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Very nice and interesting post. I never heard about this diet before. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Nicole on March 29, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve heard so much about keto lately – but no carbs in my life equals a sad me. Also, I read a research article indicating that some people eating this way can often become super constipated. Fun times. But I do know it works for some people and each to their own!

    Hey – have you got a blog post anywhere (tried searching but sad fail) about how you managed to rebalance your hormones and metabolism after they went all out of wack? I feel like I’m in a bit of that state, though I think it’s starting to balance out, but I’m left about 10 pounds heavier than I’d like to be!

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      my naturopath is the one who really helped me with that. he gave me diet guidance and i started a ton of supplements. it made a huge difference

  13. Laura @ SheEatsWell on March 29, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    A true ketogenic diet is actually used medically as it has been found to help some (not all) children with seizure disorders. We even have a ketogenic RD at the hospital I work at. It’s not a fun way to eat, as you said. It’s high fat and the protein is actually limited as well (it’s not all you can eat). Carbs can be as low as 10g or so a day so you are measuring out vegetables too. I think medically it has value….but not worth it for others and I think people say they did keto, but are unclear it’s quite different from paleo or Atkins. Just my two cents!

    • Jennifer on March 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      I have done the keto diet. My experience was not pleasant. I did lose weight quickly but it did mess with my digestive system. I ended up in the emergency room and had to stop the diet. I gained all the weight back pretty quickly and had to deal with stomach issues for months.

      • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 12:02 pm

        that sounds terrible. so happy you’re doing better now

    • Patty on March 31, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      A neurologist just put a resident at my long term care facility on a ketogenic diet for his seizures. It’s been a huge headache- the resident doesn’t want to follow the diet (his right), the seizures won’t be eased with the diet d/t the etiology, but the neuro and the family are trying to force it. I can’t believe people put their bodies through such restriction for weight loss. I’m with you that it has it’s place!

  14. Jamie @ madrediem on March 29, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I refuse to eat in a way that cuts anything out. Like you, I believe all things are good in moderation. I have a friend who has done keto a few times and she always has success early on with quick weight loss, but then she always gains it back once she stops. So I don’t think it’s realistic nor do I think it’s good long-term diet plan. Plus wine and cake make me happy (in moderation).

  15. Bethany on March 29, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Love this! I have just started reading Wired To Eat and it touches on this. My personal thoughts on ketogenic diets is that they work for most people for a current amount of time. I do not think it is a lifestyle way of eating. I have a friend that has recently went to a ketogenic diet. She has lost weight, regained normal menstrual cycles and her headaches are gone. I’ve also read where it can be great for individuals dealing with autoimmune diseases. So really I believe it can be healing but once the body has started to heal then higher carbs should be slower added back in to created a balance. As you can tell I kind of love this stuff! The body is amazing!

  16. Carrie this fit chick on March 30, 2017 at 6:09 am

    I am so not into the Keto diet… any diet really. I HATE cutting any foods out just because a diet tells you to and I hate putting restrictions on things. I truly believe everything in moderation is the only way to maintain a sustainable and healthy lifestyle AND mindset!

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:59 am

      i think it’s just that so many people are looking for a quick fix. when they try something extreme and see results, it gives them a signal that extremes are the only way to do it. in reality, any weight lost comes back just as quickly. slow, steady and sustainable wins the race

  17. Katie on March 30, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Interesting post! From what I’ve seen with keto, it is fairly easy to eat whatever you want as long as you avoid carbs. I think the danger in that is that if the diet itself isn’t sustainable and you’re not fueling your body with whole foods it is hard to keep the weight off long term. Side note, my phone kept trying to capitalize Whole Foods. That might be a sign that I need to mix up the grocery stores that I go to. Haha!

  18. kelli @ hungry hobby on March 30, 2017 at 7:22 am

    anything with that extreme restrictions is going to have complications… always… I don’t think low carb is a bad thing compared to the standard american diet, but too low carb is just starving your body of injury. Did you know that glucose (not ketones) is required to transform inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone? So you could damage your metabolism by going to low carb.

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:58 am

      i’m so glad you pointed that out- such an important thing to consider

  19. Kristin on March 30, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Perfect perfect perfect timing for this Gina. I have been reading all about keto and low carb the last few weeks. I am doing IVF and the meds and stress have packed on the pounds. I want to lose some extra poundage before I get pregnant and fingers crossed if I get pregnant, I also want to continue to eat well! I value your research and advice. I will stick to a more balanced diet. Thank you and cheers!

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:55 am

      thank you, and i’m sending so many good vibes to you right now<3

  20. Sarah C on March 30, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I know you’ve talked about your metabolism mess-up and re-set in the past, but I wonder if you could talk more about how long it took? I eat 1500-1700 cal a day and lose ZERO ounces (this is over months and months – or even years) so I suspect I have some metabolism screw-up. If I ate 2000 cal a day I would balloon up even further and it would be nearly instantly. If you have some advice for resetting metabolism like you did, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would benefit from hearing more about that!

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:54 am

      it took a while. maybe a year? it was so long ago
      i would just add your calories back in gradually. like 100 extra a week for a few weeks, then 200 extra, etc, until you’re back at a normal level.

  21. Annie on March 30, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    My mother in law has done keto quite a few times in an attempt to lose weight. I do think she has some success but don’t know enough about it. Diets and have foods labeled as off limits just doesn’t work for me. I tried Whole 30 and quit so quickly because I craved everything I wouldn’t even normally want!

  22. Katherine K on March 30, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I saw that you were doing a post on this and internally said “Jesus take the wheel”, because SCIENCE. I’m really glad to see that you’re not condoning this! As a spouse of somebody with Type 1 diabetes, I’m very aware of the damage that ketosis tipping into ketoacidosis (DKA) can cause. A++ for the message that a sustainable diet is one where you can eat everything in moderation!

    • Jenn on March 30, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      My thoughts too! I’m currently in medical school – we constantly circle back to DKA as a lesson and I’ve encountered multiple people in the ER that are currently in DKA. Ketones are our bodies way of having a backup when we are lacking in glucose, which are our bodies are designed to use as our primary energy source. Ketones are not meant to be our main source of energy – we ain’t built for dat! Also kudos to you for understanding the science behind your husband’s condition 🙂 Big fan of science here!

      • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:50 am

        <3 <3

      • Katherine K on March 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

        Right?? The only reason I had heard of this diet was because I saw a woman holding up ketone sticks while I was randomly scrolling through Instagram, and couldn’t figure out why she looked so happy that they were dark purple …

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:51 am

      the jesus take the wheel part made me lol. and yes, SCIENCE
      thank you <3 <3

  23. Andi on March 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I have eaten keto off and in for about 3 years now. It’s one of the only things that really helps keep my migraines under control. When I go on vacation or have a special event I will eat some carbs, but I am someone who does better with low carbs or no carbs.

  24. Angie on March 30, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    When I was a teenager I went to some sort of diet center that preached a ketogenic diet. So much so that they would do a urine test every time I went in to test to see if I was “in ketosis.” I remember not feeling great on it (constipation, definitely!) and finding it very hard to stick with. It was not sustainable and didn’t feel healthy.

    • Fitnessista on March 31, 2017 at 11:50 am

      yes! some of the products that supposedly put your body into ketosis come with urine tests. i’m like NO NO NO

  25. Katie on March 31, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I have my minor in Nutrition & I’ll never forget the day the Professor stated “You never want your body in Ketosis” because it stresses out your liver & it can damage your metabolism! I loved your outlook on this topic! 🙂

  26. Steph on April 1, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve been following the Keto diet for a month, and love it. It’s cleared brain fog, i sleep better, I have way more energy. I find my body performs better when I work out. Yes, there is a lot you cut out, but I do think it can be done in a healthy way. All my meals are full of green leafy veggies, I indulge in the occasional peice of fruit, and more or less the guide is “if it fits your macros”. I have such a disordered view of eating, and I definitely have adapted super quickly to this program. I don’t think it’s as low carb as people think, keeping in mind that what most people following count is the net carbs (carbs minus fibre)

  27. Alex on April 10, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    My partner did Keto for a few months temporarily to help with severe candida and digestive issues. Even though his is diet is extremely healthy and he definitely didn’t need to lose any weight – taking time to focus on balancing high fat / high protein/ low carb ratio’s was a huge help to get his gut back to healthy.

    Also, although we really dislike the idea of tracking meals – this taught us to better pay attention to balancing our overall fat/protein/carb ratio’s for the long term. As a pescetarian helping him, I realized how little protein I was actually eating. Once I started paying to attention to my ratio’s, my energy levels improved significantly. This may not be Keto specific but a good overall learning.

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