A subject that seems to be really popular these days in the media and a common area of interest for many people looking to improve their health, and lose some body fat is the ketogenic diet.
Just like any diet out there a lot of times myths and misconceptions are what people hear most frequently, and end up believing.
In this blog series I’m going to cover the top myths and mistakes people make on a ketogenic diet that hurt their results, and how to set up a ketogenic diet properly.
No Diet Is Magic
The reality is that every diet works based on the principle of energy balance. To lose fat on a diet you have to expend more calories than you consume on a daily basis.
No matter the diet you choose to eat they all have effective ways of helping you to eat fewer calories.
Paleo eliminates processed foods, veganism prohibits animal products, and ketogenic diets eliminate any source of denser carbs.
While the ketogenic diet can be a very effective approach for certain people it’s just like every other diet in that to lose body fat on a ketogenic diet you have to be in calorie deficit.
Something interesting about ketogenic diets is that when someone does enter nutritional ketosis it can have appetite suppressing effect due to the ketones that the body is using.
However let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and take a closer look at what a ketogenic diet actually is.
What Is A Ketogenic Diet Really ?
There’s a lot of misconceptions about what a ketogenic diet is, and many people assume it’s low carb and high protein, but this isn’t quite right.
While a ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, it’s not supposed to be a high protein diet, it’s a high fat diet.
Generally on a ketogenic diet 70-75% of your calories should coming from fats, 10-20% from protein and 5-10% carbs.
While some people can maintain a higher carbohydrate intake and remain in ketosis most of you will need to have carbohydrates in the 30-50 gram range to enter into ketosis.
The main reason for the extremely low carbohydrate intake and much higher fat intake is to shift the body away from using glucose from carbohydrates as the main fuel source over to ketones.
When you dramatically restrict carbohydrate intake, or calories the body will shift over to metabolizing ketones which are is a byproduct of fat metabolism that takes place in the liver.
While most people don’t want to starve themselves into ketosis the more logical route is to restrict carbohydrate intake.
Something else to consider is that the amount of time it will take someone to enter ketosis can differ from person to person based on a number of different factors.
Experiment and Find What Works For you
A caveat to consider is that a ketogenic diet may not be the best route to go for everyone to go when dieting.
I followed a low carb paleo approach and would use a cyclical keto approach for a long time and it was extremely effective for me at the time.
However as my needs and circumstances changed my diet also needed to change to match what I had going on.
About two years ago I got a really nasty staph infection from jiu jitsu that spread to my face, inside thigh and both forearms… it was gross in case you’re wondering.
I had to take a strong round of oral and topical antibiotics that wiped me out. I had no energy, my concentration was horrible, and my digestion was the worst it has been in years.
I can’t explain this part of the after antibiotics effect, but I got legitimately puffy and gained 8-10 pounds even though I was eating the exact same way.
Some of it was water weight that went away after I finished the antibiotics, but I have a good 5 pounds that seemed to stick around which seemed really odd.
After the antibiotics my digestion was still a wreck and trying to go back to lower carb made it way worse.
Even with a metric ton of fermented food and probiotic supplements my digestion wasn’t improving at all.
Some days it felt like I had a cement mixer in my stomach when I’d eat meals and would end up face down on my desk in pain.
Low carb wasn’t working, and I knew that I needed to make a change. I decided to flip things around and significantly increase my denser carb intake and lower my fat intake.
Within the week my digestion started to improve dramatically, all my workouts felt way better and I started to get a “pump” while working out.
I also found my new way of eating to be more enjoyable, sustainable and well rounded too. Since then I’ve stuck with a higher carb intake, and a more moderate fat approach to support my goals.
I’m not saying this to discourage the use of a ketogenic diet because I’ve used and had had great success with a keto diet myself and with certain clients.
In fact I’m going to do a ketogenic diet experiment here in the next 6 months and document everything to revisit the subject.
Keep in mind there’s a variety of diets that people will have success with, and what works great for one person may make another feel horrible. Everyone is different.
My point is to not be so married to one approach that you stick to it when it no longer supports your goals, be willing to change and try new things.
It took me a while to learn this lesson, and I highly encourage you to experiment and see what works for you as an individual.
Ketogenic Diet Myths
With ketogenic diets being more of an extreme approach to dieting and nutrition there are some fringe folks who treat it like the cure all and like to spread myths and misconceptions about the diet.
Let’s address those before we get too far
1.) You’ll Burn More Fat:
While this is true, we need to apply the context that you’re eating significantly more fat and restricting carbohydrates so you’ll be burning more fat, but you’ll be burning dietary fat.
That is unless you’re in a calorie deficit and on a ketogenic diet then you’ll absolutely be burning body fat, but not if you match or exceed your calorie needs then fat loss won’t happen.
A ketogenic diet can help with appetite suppression, and it does allow some people to feel fuller for longer but it isn’t an exception to the law of thermodynamics.
If you exceed your caloric needs on a ketogenic diet you can absolutely gain body fat.
2.) You’ll Go Through Keto Flu
Generally speaking some people may experience a lit bit of this, but a large amount of the “keto flu” can be avoided by setting up the diet up properly.
Firstly if you set up a ketogenic diet correctly with regards to calories and macronutrients you’ll be off to a good start.
Secondly you can avoid “keto flu” by being especially mindful of your electrolyte balance, as the lack of carbs can cause large water shifts in the body.
The electrolyte subject is one we’ll be expanding a lot more in the mistakes section, but this is an area I rarely see people address when they feel like crap on a keto diet and it can make a big difference.
3.) There’s A Metabolic Advantage
The common phrase, and misconception that a ketogenic diet has a metabolic advantage has been proven incorrect in more than a few well done studies including the one below.
A two month study done in a controlled metabolic ward under the strictest of standards, was published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition showed there was no metabolic advantage to the keto diet compared to a higher carb lower fat diet.
If you’re coming out of a state of metabolic adaptation from extreme dieting, and barely eating any fat and your hormones are a wreck some people will use a cyclical ketogenic diet to restore hormonal balance.
There are also folks who have insulin regulation problems and could benefit from using a lower carb or ketogenic approach as they’re tolerance of carbohydrates is very poor.
Again we need to look at someone’s overall context.
In Part 2 of this series we’re going to cover the common mistakes that people make on a keto diet and how to properly set up you ketogenic diet to avoid these pitfalls.