My thoughts on the Ketogenic Diet
I was recently asked my opinion on the “ketogenic” diet….
(FYI, I am not a registered dietician but have extensive experience in the fitness/nutrition industry.)
The “keto” diet is known for being a very low carbohydrate/moderate protein/high fat diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy.
Ketones are an alternative fuel source that are made for the body when glucose levels are low. Ketones are made in the liver from the breakdown of fats and are formed when there is not enough sugar or glucose to supply the body’s fuel needs.
The “keto” diet is still one of the most widely used therapies for children who have uncontrolled epilepsy today.
By following the ketogenic diet correctly, you will reach a metoabolic state of ketosis. This happens when the body does not have enough carbohydrates, so instead it burns fat for fuel. Ketosis usually takes 2-7 days (depending on individual factors and adherence to the diet) of eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
As of recent, this diet has become a protocol for people to lose weight, lose fat, manage Type 2 diabetes and control blood sugars. Since the carbohydrate intake is so low, many people lose weight because they are not eating as much processed foods thus getting into a caloric deficit.
I think for sedentary individuals who take part in minimal activity, a diet of this nature could be a good option. This person does not need to consume many carbohydrates throughout the day since their activity level is very low. Most of their calories should come from vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats.
A very active individual, let’s say a marathon runner who also is a PE teacher, in my opinion, is not a good subject for this particular diet. Since this person is running 40-60 miles per week and is also active in their job, a good dose of healthy carbohydrates (approximately 30-40% of total calories) will help them stay fueled, energized and performing at a higher level. This person still should eat a moderate amount of lean proteins and healthy fats.
If you are in the middle of these two individuals, say you workout 3-4 times a week with a low active job, you will need to find the middle ground. You don’t necessarily need to be on an extreme low carbohydrate diet, but shouldn’t be consuming 200+ grams of carbohydrates either. For this person, 100-150 grams of carbohydrates is a good starting point.
A couple finishing points:
Don’t look for a quick fix. Whether you utilize this diet or another, the key is to create healthy habits that you can sustain as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Pregnant women, people with certain issues like high blood pressure or diabetes and/or if you are taking medications should consult with their doctor before adhering to any diet plans.
I am a fan of flexible dieting, meaning that we bounce back and forth from various macro nutrient intakes. When looking to get leaner, lose fat, lose weight, etc, we lower our carbohydrate intake and increase our protein and fat intake. When we want to maintain our current physique, we move back to a more balanced macro breakdown.
When following any diet plan, if you start to see results and feel better, then stick with it. The key is to sustain the lifestyle so if it’s working for you, stay on it and be consistent. That’s how you truly know if it’s working. If you are on a diet and you hate life, I’d say you are on the wrong plan.