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.
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.
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:
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).
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?