The ketogenic diet, commonly known as Keto, is a diet extremely low in carbohydrate, very high in fat and low to moderate in protein. When we consume very small amounts of carbohydrates (under 20-50g per day), the body switches to using fats as an alternative source of energy. This metabolic state is called ketosis, as the fats (from food and from our fat stores) get converted in the liver into ketones, which your body then uses as a fuel instead of glucose.
The traditional ketogenic diet uses a ‘ketogenic ratio’ of 4-parts fat to 1-part protein and carbohydrate. Therefore, around 80% of the calories in the diet come from fat
The ketogenic diet has been used to successfully treat childhood epilepsy since the 1920s and has been also effective in managing various metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders. In the most recent years, the ketogenic diet has been trialed amongst endurance athletes wanting to find out whether fuelling on fat can provide any performance advantage. While there’s no indication of a ketogenic diet providing significant enhancements of athletic performance, there is strong evidence that adaptation to a ketogenic diet creates significant cellular changes to increase the mobilization, transport, uptake, and oxidation of fat during exercise. These findings led to the keto being marketed as a miracle weight loss diet allowing us to eat an unlimited amount of fatty foods while losing weight at the same time.
Before you ‘sign up’ for a diet of bacon, sausages, and cream, consider this:
You need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you are on a high-fat diet and consume more energy (calories) than what your body can utilize, your body will first use the fat from your food and you are not likely to tap into your body fat stores. On the contrary, you are likely to gain weight. Keep in mind that one gram of fat has over twice as many calories as one gram of protein or carbohydrate.
Is your diet healthy and do you cover all your micronutrient requirements? Eating sausages and bacon all day long certainly is keto, from the macronutrient perspective. However, you are totally robbing yourself of fiber, as well as of many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients because you can only get those from plants and other fresh wholefoods. Furthermore, processed meats are high in salt and carcinogenic.
When you start any diet that’s very low in carbs, you initially lose weight fast. This is due to water being flushed out of your body as your glycogen gets depleted. Every gram of glycogen retains 2-3g of water and when its levels fall, so do our water levels. Even though you are few kilos lighter according to your scales, your fat stores might still be exactly the same. The best is to get a DEXA scan to see exactly how much fat and lean muscle mass you have.
If you eat too much protein (more than your body can utilize in a day) while eating lots of fat, your body will convert the protein into glucose via gluconeogenesis and you will snap out of ketosis without even realizing it.
While some people thrive on this diet, others can become very ill. It depends on your genetic makeup and health status.
Adhering to this way of eating is very difficult socially and can create lots of anxiety around eating.
My Ketogenic recommendations
Ketogenic diet certainly has its benefits such as increased satiety, reduced hunger and cravings, steady insulin levels, increased fat oxidation during exercise, and better mental focus just to name a few. However, the true ketogenic diet can be very difficult to adhere to and, in the long run, can result in vitamin, mineral, and fiber deficiency negatively impacting your health.
Unless your doctor prescribed to go on a full keto diet, ‘a carb appropriate diet’ is a smarter way to go about your eating. Are you an athlete or a couch potato? Are you pregnant or nursing? Is your job sedentary or hard labor? Every single one of us has different needs when it comes to nutrition and how much energy, carbs, protein, and fats we need. And it also changes depending on our daily activity. For example, if you sit at a desk all day, you won’t need many carbs and sticking to a very low carb diet can be very beneficial for you. But if you run a marathon on the weekend or do a hard-core weight lifting session, you will benefit from having a few healthy carbs on those days.
If you really want to try the ketogenic diet, make sure you consume lots of whole foods instead of processed junk. Grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish and seafood, organic poultry and eggs, lots of fresh low starch vegetables, and nuts and seeds should make up most of your diet. If you are time-poor and often eat on the go or if you want to treat yourself, grab one of my Chief Bars, which we have developed specifically to have healthy snacks that are not full of sugar and nasty additives and fillers. The whole range is keto-friendly ☺
Veronika Larisova is a Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist, Fitgenes practitioner, and Educator who has worked with a wide range of clientele ranging from Olympic athletes to weekend warriors. She is also the Co-Founder of Chief Nutrition.