There is always a revolving trend of what diet is popular at any given time. This trend is usually influenced by celebrities who have initially used the diet or trend to get extra lean. Eventually the diet becomes somewhat mainstream. The problem with anything going mainstream is that it becomes like the telephone game and by the time it reaches you, the message is incredibly skewed. Today we are going to look at a popular diet in the Keto Diet. What is it? How (or if) it works? Is it safe?
What is the Keto Diet and How does it work?
The Keto Diet is actually the Ketogenic Diet, a low carb diet reminiscent of Atkins and the low carb craze of the 90s. It is based on the same idea that with the absence of carbohydrates, the body will burn fat for energy. Normally the body burns glucose which is converted from the carbs you eat.
Ketones are molecules produced in the liver as a result of fatty acid breakdown.
Believe it or not the “diet” was actually created in the 1920s as a treatment for epileptic patients and has also been used to treat pediatric seizure patients.
Please note this article is in no way suggesting that this is acceptable for treatment of epilepsy or seizure.
How is it done?
When people undertake the keto diet they usually cut all carbs from their diets except for those negligible carbs that come in protein sources like eggs and fats like nuts. You are not eating carbs from sources like grains, fruits, or sugars. The only actual carb source usually eaten on this diet is fibrous vegetables like broccoli and greens.
Does it work?
The answer is a very unsteady Yes. Why unsteady? Well because usually those who undertake the keto diet are doing so coming from a traditional American way of eating. This is heavy in carbs, usually simple carbs, and looking to be anywhere from 200-600 grams of carbs per day. When you drastically cut that number, like with the keto diet, the body responds to the sudden change and subjects are able to rapidly drop fat. The fact that you are still taking in protein helps preserve muscle tissue. Additionally males need to maintain proper fatty acid intake to aide in testosterone production.
What Could Be The Down Side to the Keto Diet?
So far so good, right? We drop carbs and the fat is literally melting off. We are maintaining muscle mass. That’s good, right? Not so fast!
While the keto diet does work, it will eventually plateau. The body is the greatest adaptation tool ever and it will learn to adjust to any environment or situation put before it. Simply put, you get used to it. What happens when the body gets used to something? It stops responding.
Fat loss occurs only through an energy unbalance. You need to burn more fuel than you take in. This is where the problem comes in with drastically dropping carbs so quickly. There is nothing left to cut when you plateau. Carbs are the only macronutrient that is non-essential. The body requires amino acids and fatty acids that are only found in protein and fats and cannot be synthesized within the body.
So, if carbs are already cut out then all you have left to cut to make that energy unbalance is essential nutrients.
The other problem here is that it’s not as easy as it seems to suddenly overhaul you’re eating and cut out all carbs. As Timothy Nokes M.D. puts it, “it takes serious dedication to drop your daily carb total under 50 grams.” And while you may be up for the challenge the reality is the same as with all restrictions in life. You will eventually rebel, and even if not it creates an uncomfortable situation. Diets are restrictive. You should never feel deprived or hungry.
The Right Way?
As you can see the keto diet can work but has its limits. So, what is a better alternative? You should gradually lower carbs from your diet over a period of weeks and/or cycle your carb intake. This allows your body to adapt but still factors in the wiggle room you need to further drop carbs. For more on this, read my Carb Drop – How to Eat Low Carb Like a Pro article, pay special attention to the last paragraph dealing with leptin levels.