Is Keto Right for ME?
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few years you have probably heard of the ketogenic “Keto” diet. Perhaps a friend, or a co-worker has mentioned it, or you have a family member that has given it a try. The fact is this diet has made quite the buzz in recent years, but how do you know if the keto diet is a good fit for you? Not all diets are made equal, and the reality is that every diet out there comes with its own list of pro’s and con’s. So, let’s take a closer look at the keto diet, and see what kinds of questions you should be asking yourself before you jump in.
The History of Keto
While the keto diet may be generating a lot of buzz in recent years, it is definitely not a new philosophy of eating. The diet in fact dates back to the early 1920’s when it was discovered by Dr. Russel Wilder M.D. of the Mayo Clinic as a means of treating epilepsy. The diet remained a popular course of treatment for epilepsy throughout the 20’s and 30’s but became largely abandoned with the further development of anticonvulsant drugs.
Some research was still being conducted however, and in the 1960’s a cardiologist by the name of Dr. Robert C. Atkins began developing his now famous low-carb based “Atkins Diet”. While differences do exist between a traditional keto diet, and the Atkins diet, they do both work off the same essential principals of limiting carbohydrate intake to extremely low levels.
The ketogenic diet did not come back into the public eye till 1994 when it got national media exposure on NBC’s Dateline. The television program reported on the case of Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams 2 year old son Charlie, and the amazing results the keto diet afforded him in controlling his severe epilepsy when mainstream and alternative therapies could not. This inspired Abrahams to create “The Charlie Foundation” to both promote the diet and fund further research. Thus followed an explosion in scientific research. Abrahams also produced a TV movie entitled “First Do No Harm” in 1997 starring Meryl Streep. The film depicts a young boys difficult struggle with epilepsy, and how it is successfully treated by the ketogenic diet.
By 2007 the diet had gained worldwide fame and was available in over 45 countries, as well as in multiple less restrictive variants, such as the modified Atkins diet. The keto diet also continued to be researched for the treatment of a wide variety of disorders other than epilepsy.
How it Works
The basic idea behind the keto diet is to replace carbohydrates as your bodies main source of energy with fats. Normally, our body takes the carb contained in the foods we eat and converts them into glucose. This glucose is then carried by the bloodstream and delivered all over the body to be used as fuel. However, if you restrict the amount of carbohydrates you eat, your body no longer has an easy source of glucose production. Your body being the incredible machine that it is sees this need for a new fuel source and begins having the liver convert fat into fatty acids, and ketone bodies. The ketones are then carried throughout the body and replace glucose as your bodies source of energy. This elevated level of ketones in the bloodstream is known as being in a state of ketosis.
Fats actually contain a much higher molecular energy level than carbs, delivering as much as twice the energy which is why our bodies are programmed to store fat as emergency fuel. By following a good 4:1 ratio by weight of fats to combined protein, and carbs, you are actually able to trick your body into utilizing its natural fat stores thereby increasing your ability to burn unwanted bodyfat by as much as 70% over some other diets. In cases of extreme carbohydrate depletion our bodies also have the ability to transform protein into glucose. This process is known as gluconeogenesis and is only done after the entire fat reserves have completely depleted. In the ketogenic diet, we eat a high amount of fat, so this will not happen.
A Typical day in keto
As you are reading this you may be having a hard time picturing what a typical daily meal plan may look like. In my new book “Keto Strong – A Beginners Guide to High Performance Keto” I talk about what a typical daily plan should include, as well as provide a full 30-day meal plan and recipe book. I also give you a list of the types of food you should not only be seeking out, but what you should be avoiding as well. An example from my book would look something like this:
Breakfast: Mexican Scrambled Eggs
1 Cup of Coffee mixed with a tablespoon of butter or coconut oil with a dash of cinnamon.
Lunch: Ground Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry
Dinner: Tuscan Garlic Chicken
This is just an example of course to show you the wide variety of food ideas that are in fact available out there. You can find the exact recipes for these meals in my book as well. However, there are countless blogs, articles, and other sources of information dedicated to providing you with amazing “keto friendly” recipe ideas, so your meal selection could almost be endless for an adventurous individual.
Potential Benefits of keto
As we talked about earlier the keto diet as incredibly beneficial effect on a number of diseases including:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Some Cancers
- Parkinson’s Disease
- GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Migraine Headaches
However, the reason most people want to know more about it is not for its medical benefits, but its weight loss and weight management potential. Numerous studies have been published on the weight loss benefits, showing amazing results over the test period. As stated, cases have been reported of up to 70% greater fat loss over traditional diets. Weight loss primarily occurs because your body is utilizing its own fat stores for energy. Another benefit in terms of fat loss is the fact that fat has a slower digestion cycle than carbs thus giving you a feeling of “fullness” longer and decreasing your appetite over time.
Another great benefit of keto is its ability to reduce chronic inflammatory reactions inside the body, which occur after intense physical activity. Inflammatory reactions such as DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is directly linked to physical recovery time after your workouts. Beta-hydroxybutyrate also known as BHB is primarily responsible for this anti-inflammatory effect. BHB is one of 3 different ketone bodies produced in the liver when you enter a state of ketosis. Along with its anti-inflammatory benefits BHB also exhibits a similar effect on pain as the common over the counter pain pill Ibuprofen. All in all, when your body is in a state of ketosis it produces a complex biochemical process that directly fights inflammation, reducing recovery time from intense physical activity.
Energy increase is yet another key benefit worth noting. We mentioned earlier that fats contain as much as twice the potential energy as carbs. When we consume a traditional balanced diet, our bodies build up stores of glucose to use as fast burning energy it can call on when needed. For this reason, you often see high level athletes “carb-loading” before sporting events or workouts. They want to give their body as much fuel as possible to avoid performance loss due to low energy. The problem here is that your body can only store so much glucose at one time. When your bodies natural glucose stores run low you experience a phenomenon long distance runners call “hitting a wall”. You become tired and sluggish, your brain becomes foggy and you can become dizzy. With keto this is no longer a problem. When we are in a state of ketosis, our bodies will be dependent on fats to convert into ketones. Luckily for us if our bodies burn through all the fat we consume through our diet, it can automatically begin running entirely on our body’s fat stores. Because of this fact people who regularly practice a keto lifestyle report significant increases in energy, as well as better sleep patterns.
Given the fact that you are essentially starving your body of any unhealthy sugars, the keto diet also acts similarly to a detox. The longer you go without sugar the les your body will tend to crave it. Keto is one of the best diets out for controlling cravings. Given a long enough time people have reported a complete loss of cravings for sugar and carbs in general.
Cons of the Keto Diet
Realistically we all know that the perfect diet does not exist. Each one of them have their own unique advantages as well as drawbacks. The keto diet is absolutely no exception. One of the first things you might notice when you body begins to enter a ketogenic state is bad breath. People practicing a keto lifestyle commonly complain of this fact, and I personally have experienced this. It is by no means so bad that it is uncontrollable, but it is one of those small things that can eventually become annoying.
Another drawback is something people refer to as the “keto flu”. This is the period when you first start out. Your body is burning through its stored glucose, but it does not have any carbs available to draw more energy from, so you begin to feel uncommonly tired and lethargic. It is common to have a headache and feel weaker than normal. This period typically lasts 24 to 48 hours while your body begins switching from glucose to producing and burning ketones for energy.
Another potential drawback is the risk of developing some nutrient deficiencies. Because of the restricted diet it is possible to need the addition of nutritional supplements to adequately meet all your body’s nutritional needs. Some of these micronutrient deficiencies can cause symptoms such as hair loss as well as constipation.
The keto diet can be greatly beneficial for people suffering from diabetes, however if you are diabetic you should most definitely check with your doctor before giving this diet a try. Type 1 diabetics should stay away from a ketogenic diet as in can increase their chances of life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Even type 2 diabetics should get regular blood tests to prevent DKA. People with kidney disease should also avoid this because of the protein intake.
The ketogenic diet very clearly has a lot to offer the world. Not only for the amazing medical benefits it was originally intended for, but the very real weight loss and weight management potential it has to offer. Countless thousands of people have seen life altering changes from this diet. If you are interested in giving it a try, you should definitely check with your doctor to make sure it would be a good fit in your life. For the vast majority of people keto holds absolutely no risk of health consequences. When being used correctly it can be the advantage you need to springboard yourself into your fitness goals. Keto is not for everyone, but if it sounds like it is something for you, I encourage you to check out my book “Keto Strong – A Beginners Guide to High Performance Keto”. Inside it has all the information you will need to get started out on the right track. If you enjoyed this article come check out my blog J.P. Wells Fitness for more great content like this.